Justice: Audio Video Disco
Full disclosure: I am probably the least qualified person in the world to review electronic music, or what I like to call “beep boop” music. Just so you know, I legitimately liked—and have multiple dust-covered CD-Rs of—music from Dance Dance Revolution, a game I played competitively for years. Since then I have looked on eBay for a replica of the “Disco Sucks” shirt that Lester Bangs wears in Almost Famous, multiple times.
However, it’s this same ambivalence to the genre that made me admire Justice’s † so much. It just didn’t sound like dance music; it sounded like a dance revolution. Disco does kind of suck, but this sounded straight-up grungy. Listening to “Phantom Part II” was like listening to the theme song from Goldeneye with a severed corpus callosum. It was exactly this glitchiness and distortion that differentiated them from a band like Daft Punk, a duo to which they were often but erroneously compared (less daft, more punk). Plus, these weren’t guys hiding behind the anonymity afforded by full-body costumes and sky-scraping stages, these were dudes in a smoky club, wearing black leather jackets and blasting cacophanous electronic beats that could break glass like a fist. The facade and the illusion that shrouds disco music was removed, and behind the veil was some loud, angry, irreverent music best enjoyed during a fictional Camden College rager in a Bret Easton Ellis novel.
But that’s all changed, obviously. In a weird “the tables have turned” cultural moment, rock emulated Justice. Nothing sounds jarring about † anymore. The indie landscape is littered with lo-fi bands that sound like they’re singing from underwater with the aid of a snorkel, and pop music has taken the same cue. Listen to “Baby One More Time” and then listen to 2011’s “Hold It Against Me,” and you’ll get it. For further, more definitive proof see the Urban Dictionary entry for “Dubstep.”
So it seems appropriate that having already defined the future, the members of Justice found themselves yearning for the past. There’s the “We Will Rock You” drums on “Parade” and the oohs and ahhs that could spark a stadium full of lit, swaying lighters. On the other side of the spectrum, there are songs like “Ohio” that would sound just as appropriate in a show like The OC as Imogen Heap. Perhaps, Audio Video Disco would have succeeded if it featured more of the former than the latter. Unfortunately, very few moments on captivate, and instead of catapulting us into the future, Justice now seems to wallow in the kind of electronic music that would have existed if say, as Blade Runner predicted, the future actually existed in the 1980s.
While † threatened to alienate with its sheer abrasiveness, its long-awaited follow-up succeeds in boring with its sprawling and unfocused Queen-meets-Skrillex mashups. The fact that Audio Video Disco features a Stonehedge-esque cross on its cover might be as prescient as the wild predictive powers of Justice’s previous effort. At the very least, that figurative cross is something Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge will certainly have to carry from this point on. If two French club kids didn’t accidentally become the Nostradamuses of the hyperparanoid new world, Justice could have been a band that enjoyed relative success as a minor, obscure European electronic act. They, quite literally, dug their own graves. It’s obvious; after the four years it took for them to release Audio Video Disco, these guys seem like relative dinosaurs. Skrillex plays to crowds of 85,000. Can you imagine? The future is now, Justice, and you guys might as well be one of the 40-year-old arena rock acts Audio Video Disco tried and failed to reappropriate.