Justice – the wildly celebrated project between parisians Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé – are digging into surprisingly fertile influence soil with their second studio album, Audio Video Disco.
A leap of evolution that borders on abandonment from their 2007 debut album Cross, the album's greatest strength is in its refusal to adhere to old rules. It's prog rock on the dance floor, a roaring return from a four-year recording moratorium that's just as entrenched in rock riffage as electronica, a bizarrely successful marriage first evidenced in the apocalyptic orchestrations of opener "Horsepower," and pushed through a disco filter on pop-brilliant first single "Civilization," like Prince on a rock kick:
The untethered noise-funk of "Canon" recalls an evolution of the chaos of "Stress" from their debut, a percussive assault in a digital throb-groove, and initial longings for a vocal track in the mix subside as the hypnotic nature of the beat takes control.
"On'n'on" corners the market on the ethereal-indie-pop craze that's infected the music world in recent years, but with a confident streak that allows a line like "Someday the grapes will be wine, and someday you will be mine, and so the story goes on and on…" to hit with intended impact on our cynical ears, overloaded by thousands of inferior wheezings by trust fund kids in the latest line of American Apparel.
"Newlands" features guest male vocals from Morgan Phalen of Diamond Nights, an ambitious guitar-led falsetto jam that takes off on a tempo-doubling gallop midway through before giving way to the brilliance of electropop highlight "Helix," a glorious melding of what sounds like Billy Ocean vocal samples built into a guitar lead:
Meanwhile, "Parade" is a gospel-leaning masterpiece, an exercise in restraint and nuance as the low-blatt synths are built upon by layers of digital handclaps, guitars and a choir of voices. It's gone before we realize, returning after a false ending for a heavenly conclusion. Tricky tricky.
Audio Video Discofinds the French duo reaching for an electronic stadium rock design, with mostly positive results. Whether through the hypnotic-bump of the synths in "Canon" or the exploration of classic rock territory throughout, stylistic repetition is the chief enemy, and one of the few elements that cost this album points. A French electro filter on six-string 70s Americana is going to take some digestion for any listener, but it's an electrifying experience to look at a blender full of electronica and rock & roll through the eyes of two quirky French guys from Paris.
CraveOnline Rating: 7.5 out of 10