Oct 2011
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Under Music

Justice – Audio Video Disco (album review)

As you can probably tell by the insane the number of blog posts related to Justice in the past few weeks, I’m pretty stoked about the release of the upcoming album Audio Video Disco on October 24. Justice have not failed to both impress and surprise with their second studio album: Audio Video Disco is not even close to being a remake of 2007’s debut album Cross - it’s a completely autonomous piece of music, breaking genre boundaries and exceeding expectations.

I’m honestly not exaggerating when I say that I’ve listened to the album at least 15 times all the way through over the past few days, so I’ll just try to suppress my enthusiasm a bit and focus on this attempt of a (partially very subjective) track by track review of the entire album. If you haven’t done so, pre-order your copy on iTunes now!

1. Horsepower might disappoint a little at first, being the first impression of the new album. Memories of Genesis, the epic intro of Cross, the first studio album by Justice, are coming back to mind, and compared to this masterpiece, the first track of Audio Video Disco might sound a bit weak. But then there’s this incredible riff breaking loose at 1:04, putting a smile on your face and forcing you to turn up the volume – and suddenly all is right with the world again. Horsepower, a powerful instrumental intro, sounds the bell for a new era and sets the musical path for the rest of the album.

[full review after the jump]

2. Civilization, having leaked first, has already provoked a lot of discussions and debates: cut out from recordings of the Ed Banger family’s DJ sets, low-quality YouTube rips and finally the monumental video – the impact Civilization had left has truly been of biblical proportions. As already gossiped about here, Civilization strongly divided Justice’s fan base, with one part euphorically singing along, delighted to finally hear back from the band they’ve missed so much and the other one disappointed by the unwanted „new“ sound. Anyway, seeing (and hearing) Civilization in the context of the entire album, this song is nothing but the work of a genius.

3. Ohio is most probably the song that really got Justice in hot water, and brought them a lot of cynical remarks about being the new Air. Starting with laid-back harmonic vocals and acoustic guitars that sound like an old Eagles record, it’s certainly one of the more controversial songs on the album. But when their good old trademark analogue bass starts slapping at the lower end of the frequency spectrum, it slowly starts to dawn on you what’s about to come: a crackling synth starts stirring up the fuzz at 2:36, and once more, everything’s alright again.

4. Canon (Primo), a short 27-seconds intermezzo preceding Canon, the fifth track of the album, clears up the last doubts about Audio Video Disco being a concept album, with recurring musical themes and all the tracks making references to each other.

5. Canon gives a good insight into Justice’s idea of rock ‘n’ roll – and after a few plays you don’t only have Stylo by Gorillaz playing in your head but also know why that opening riff sounded so familiar. Apart from that, Canon has all what we loved about Justice back in 2007: A gritty synth that would make every sound technician panically search for a broken cable, an epic medley with dramatic chords leading into a big build-up backed by a potent lead synth – without any vocals.

6. On’N’On sounds as if it was taken straightly from a musical by the likes of Andrew Lloyd Weber or even Freddie Mercury, and now at the latest it’s impossible to deny that Audio Video Disco is a concept album, with an obvious golden thread running through from the first minute to the last. A big room drum kit and the dominating vocals almost make you feel the spotlights and the excited looks of the audience. Apart from a sporadically appearing backing synth that has clearly been recycled from Valentine, you certainly wouldn’t recognize this one as a Justice song.

7. Brianvision does not only build up suspense again but also fuels the impression of sitting in a Broadway musical, with its driving beat and the big muted electic guitar guiding you throughout the entire song. Another big instrumental that does its job on the album well but wouldn’t really stand out if it was released on a rock album – Justice’s new concept of rock music definitely lacks coherence here. On a sidenote: if Sébastien Tellier would ever compose a musical, this is exactly what I would expect to hear.

8. Parade teleports you straight in the first row of a Queen show – when the stomping drums and claps break loose after only six seconds you’ll know why. Starting with a guitar solo that overflows with feedback, soon a dreamy mellow synth lead is introduced, and no later than when the humming vocals start piercing right through your head you’ll realize that this song is nothing but an anthem and would probably even rock a Superbowl stadium.

9. Newlands, one of my absolute favourites, catches you right from the first second. A sparkling homage to glamrock, featuring catchy vocals, guitar solos and the whole shebang. I don’t really dare to compare Justice to any of these big rock legends, but Newlands sound a lot like a (very unlikely) brainchild of Guns N’ Roses, Van Halen, Toto and AC/DC– catchy vocals, pumping guitars and vintage synths. For some more thoughts on Newlands (and Canon), check out my article on these two tracks.

10. Helix, the last track before the album’s title track, perfects the fusion of synthesizers and electric guitars, of electronic dance music and rock’n’roll. The chopped up vocals do the job quite well, but in the end it’s all about the final amalgamation of Justice’s trademark synthesizer sound and analogue electric guitars. This might be a very subjective opinion, but with that musical meltdown being completed, Helix sounds a lot like the real climax of the album, the zenith of the concept that dominates the entire album.

11. Audio Video Disco, the album’s title track, sounds more like a reprise or a ceremonial encore, with Helix being the true finale grande of the album for me. Being not only the second track that had surfaced but also the first single release before the release of the album, Audio Video Disco is a mind-blowing pop song that you’ll find yourself singing along to before you can say Oreoooo. It simply has all a good pop song needs: catchy vocals, a simple yet effective hook, pianos, guitars – while it’s certainly not too sophisticated, it still works very well as the closing track of the album and even better on it’s own. While the self-titled EP clearly focuses on electronic dance floors, with Para One and Mickey Moonlight on the remix front, the accompanying video paints a portrait of Justice as a rock band, hanging around in the studio and playing all the instruments themselves.

12. The Hidden Track (starting at 5:58 on track 11) is a melancholic five-minute instrumental jam, letting the album fade sin style. It’s not credited in the album’s track list – the final stage to the rockstar image Justice are working so hard on.

The resurrection of the mighty – not always consistent but overall more than convincing. (8/10)