Justice – Audio, Video, Disco

written by: October 27, 2011
Release Date: October 25th, 2011


There are two recurring perils for successful bands releasing second albums. One: the band, gouged on the size of its success, sets about composing stadium-sized anthems for its new minions—honed for massive stages and epic live sets—without once realizing that these songs are vapid. Two: the band for whatever reason (sick of success, not wanting to be cornered in, tired of critics’ conclusions) goes so far away from what made it appealing in the first place that it loses its magic touch. Audio, Video, Disco is a study in both of these pitfalls; it is also a pastiche of a genre long dead (that starts with a ‘P’ and ends in “ock”), and to top it all off, when you get through it, not half bad.

Like Cross, it might take some time to bloom in memory and when it does, it won’t be nearly as pleasing a pattern or elaborate a design. In truth, it’s not clear whether Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé have made it to be memorable. Justice does not pretend. The band doesn’t don otherworldly stage outfits to garner attention, shave half their heads (these are all theoretical examples) or resort to a seizure-inducing laser/light show to sell themselves. Justice doesn’t seek to seriously prove their musicianship (hence the stack of inane Marshalls on their stage), only have an Ed Banger’s ball. One gets the sense listening to Justice that it’s coming straight from the gut, the goofy, tongue-in-cheek side of the duo that shines through in person.

After famously hailing Audio, Video, Disco a “daylight album” to the night of Cross, de Rosnay went on to confess he’s a “terrible musician” and that the band’s forthcoming album would contain stadium rock. Well, unlike other slithery interviews with cocky and evasive musicians, this one turned out to have its basis in fact. From the opening guitar climbs of “Horsepower,” the first inclination might be to laugh—out loud. And yet as surely as you’re laughing, it bursts through with harsh, grinding electro strings—building in much the same way “Genesis” did.

Prowling on, “Civilization” bears its standard with the same instrumentation, a few glamorous piano hits and digitized guitars adding to the effect. Audio, Video, Disco is hurt/helped by being workout music—it is the soundtrack to an Adidas commercial, also perfect “brisk walk” tempo, where the things in your life seem to be literally synced up with the beat. That said, the album is cohesive. Nothing protrudes but the noxious testosterone of the sung pieces. Heavily-phased “Kashmir” drums guide the sunshine spiritual “On ‘n’ On,” whereas the groove of “New Lands” is so shamelessly Phil Rudd/Angus Young that it’s a small wonder royalty checks aren’t being wired Down Under. Vocals on both are contributed by Morgan Phalen of Diamond Nights, a band not unfamiliar with late-1970s rock. But consider the elements: Audio, Video, Disco didn’t emerge from nothing.

Metal has always been a primary color in Justice’s palette. From their remix of Death From Above 1979’s “Blood on Our Hands” to their Metallica-sampling live “Finale” to the guitar solo on “Planisphere” (a Dior Homme commission making its first official appearance as a bonus track on the album) the thrash sneaks out like a dirty hobby, and it’s not surprising to see it permeate Audio, Video, Disco. There’s the rollicking palm-muted, “Canon” and the double-time breakdown on “New Lands.” Justice also habitually employ baroque runs, and as such, the album is the perfect accompaniment to your next jousting tournament.

So if Justice isn’t what we thought—a thunderous, irreverent and Bad opposite to Daft Punk, what is Ed Banger?

What began as a bunch of 18th arrondissement kids with a penchant for leather jackets, cigarettes and Michael Jackson now face soul-searching times. With his album Total, Sebastian seems to be doing Justice more justice than Justice. Busy P is too busy hyping his boys to release anything of note, Mr. Oizo’s last clip was the soundtrack to Rubber (with Justice), Uffie likewise has struggled to hit the charts since her collaboration on Cross, and in a shocking tragedy to music and the world, Mehdi was killed in a rooftop collapse.

With Cross in 2007, Justice stole electro and in turn, dance music. These days, Skrillex and Deadmau5 titillate audiences. Modern House fans would sooner turn up at a Tiësto show than explore its origins. This is why it seems like Audio, Video, Disco, rather than jolt the world to attention like Cross, is a concession on de Rosnay and Augé’s part—a refusal to play the game. Or at least play the game by its own rules.

It reeks more of the duo doing what they want to do, exploring sounds they like, holistically. And yeah, they might be sounds with a firm footing in the past but who’s to say the objective was invention?

Be advised, fans. Justice “Pandora” is now likely to include Yes, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Blue Öyster Cult, Rush and Black Sabbath.

Justice – Audio, Video, Disco tracklist:

  1. “Horsepower”
  2. “Civilization”
  3. “Ohio”
  4. “Canon (Primo)”
  5. “Canon”
  6. “On ‘n’ On”
  7. “Brainvision”
  8. “Parade”
  9. “New Lands”
  10. “Helix”
  11. “Audio, Video, Disco”