Stadium rockers beware: Long-haired headbangers are trading in their wailing guitars for drum samplers and turntables. The French electronica duo, Justice, has repackaged threadbare hipster beats with a thunderous digital sound, pummelling the duo into the innards of the exclusive Indie—often rock-heavy—circles.
The group’s long-awaited full-length debut, simply titled †, certainly conjures up monickers of post-pop artistes—I’m thinking mainly of Prince during his “the artist formerly known as” days. Like Prince in the 1990s, Justice is redefining the dance-pop genre—mixing European Daft Punk-style House music with crusty, distorted guitar sounds.
Nameless: Disco meets trance in this one
Justice comprises the French 20-somethings Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, long known as behind-the-scene collaborators with the likes of Daft Punk, Franz Ferdinand, and N*E*R*D. The duo has cited influences as diverse as Metallica and underground hip hop and was one of the major headliners at this year’s historically rock-focused Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California.
This year’s Coachella festival featured pretty traditional headliners such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Roots and Rage Against the Machine as well as more genre-defying groups such as Bjork, Air or Gotan Project. But Justice elicited a fist-pounding and stage-diving response from its crowd, inducing buzz from music execs and fans alike that they will be the “next big thing”.
With a resurgence of electro-beats in the work of LCD Soundsystem or Of Montreal, it looks as if hipsters are in the mood to dance.
One of the album’s catchiest tunes, D.A.N.C.E., will get you singing along to its disco-inspired riffs—with memorable singalong lines such as “do the dance” and D-A-N-C-E 1-2-3-4-5. But the song’s greatest achievement is taking disco beats and horn lines we’ve all heard too many times to count and digitizing them with trance-heavy bass lines.
Rapper Kanye West sampled some of Justice’s work for his hit single, Stronger, and they have recently remixed Justin Timberlake’s LoveStoned. The duo’s strength is certainly in its sampling and production quality: †, like most electronica albums, is light on the words.
But when lyric tracks do exist, they are treated as another layer to the intricate symphony of synthetic sounds. The track Dvno features an undulating vocal track, reminiscent of Robert Smith of the Cure—with overly produced 1980s drum sounds.
And what is perhaps most resonant about the album is that it literally takes hints from the entire musical spectrum. The track, The Party, for example, has synthesizer lines that sound like Weather Report underneath hip hop vocal samples that could be featured on a Jay-Z track. And the song’s mock heavy-metal guitar riffs feel more like fusion jazz than Iron Maiden.
Or take Let There Be Light, which features so many trilled static sounds over a catchy dance beat that you can almost hear strobe lights in the background. There’s no doubt the album will be a hit with the club-going crowd. One track, Newjack, plays with seemingly broken beats and offbeat hits alternating with chaotic static echoes.
The album’s closer, One Minute to Midnight, is a prolonged dance symphony with a synthetic weeping guitar calling back to the opening track, Genesis, which has an over-produced tympany sound mixed with spacey laser sounds. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was recorded with Jedi Knights duelling to the Planet of the Apes theme song.
Often, the songs feel like remixes of arcade video game songs—PacMan meets Saturday Night Fever. But that won’t stop me from growing my hair and headbanging.
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