In an ideal world, comparisons wouldn’t have to be drawn between Justice’s two albums. But the world is far from ideal, and the two will be pitted against one another whether or not it’s fair. † was the work of a fledgling French electronic/house duo trying to make a name for themselves. The album had a smash single in “D.A.N.C.E.”, and Justice was an overnight success. † went Silver in the UK, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronica Album later that year. Classic underdog fable.
Audio, Video, Disco is a different beast entirely. Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay (Justice) toured extensively and took their precious time (to the tune of four years) in the studio for this go around. It was a much more practiced, focused pair than the hungry up and comers that entered the studio back in 2007. The result? Justice have successfully crafted a no-nonsense dance album that incorporates an aesthetic seen far too infrequently in the genre: fluidity.
In a genre that lives and dies by ultra one-off hits, a truly “great” dance album is sometimes difficult to come by. An album with a mega hit and one or two more decent songs is all that is required of artists in the world of dance music. But from the beginning Justice have been far from the average.
We’ll get it out of the way – there is no “D.A.N.C.E.” on this album. But as it turns out, that’s what makes it more cohesive than its predecessor. Whether it’s the harrowing, guitar-laden “Canon”, the dance floor bound “Civilzation”, or the simplistic baby-maker “Ohio”, this entire album is fraught with moments that will have you dancing around like a pants-less Tom Cruise in Risky Business.
It maintains a high octane pace for the majority of the album, largely due to the guitar-heavy sampling, their homage to late ’70s arena rock. “Parade”, while the obvious runt of the litter, may very well be a riff stolen from Queen guitarist Brian May’s personal collection. The intro to “Horsepower” could have easily been the intro to any Styx song circa 1975. The sounds are uncanny. And, as luck would have it, vintage arena rock and modern electronic are a winning combination. It’s quite a new look for Justice, but it’s one that fits like a glove. Their sense of grandeur has never been quite at home in the dingy dance club setting, and while this album won’t get them inside arenas, it certainly has the gargantuan sound that would sonically fill Madison Square Garden.
The album takes a noticeable dip six tracks in that’s hard to overlook. “On‘n’On” is a slight deviation from the album’s focus, and while it’s a pleasant listen, it’s the gateway drug to mediocrity. Immediately following on the tracklist is “Brianvision”, a slow, repetitious guitar-driven inclusion that pales in comparison to the others that surround it. “Brianvision” eventually turns to the aforementioned “Parade”, which feels like a very dismal take on “We Will Rock You”.
Fortunately, the album leaps out of the doldrums and regains success with the infectious chorus of “Newlands”, one of the best tracks here. Augé and de Rosnay then take the record in the way that most Justice fans should be familiar with: a massive closer. The title track “Audio, Video, Disco” bids the listeners farewell with a lavish sendoff filled to capacity with equal parts charm and precision.
And though the album is not without its share of flaws, Audio, Video, Disco provides just enough evidence to hint that Justice may be the dance act to eventually lead this generation. There is no mega hit here; surely nothing that will eclipse “D.A.N.C.E.”, but that’s why it works. They’ve crafted a cohesive sophomore effort in a world that doesn’t require cohesion, setting them apart from their many, many peers. That’s admirable.
Essential Tracks: “Civilization”, “Ohio”, and “Newlands”