Justice is not afraid of kitsch; in fact, the duo practically depends on it. Ed Banger-reared French electro-house darlings Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay are renowned for the re-appropriation of '80s hair metal and Jackson 5-style pop that littered their debut LP, †. That mix of bombastic aggression and ebullient dance music proved to be a widely enjoyed cocktail back in 2007, and, truth be told, could probably be updated a touch to bode fairly well in 2011. But Justice has not taken the easy route on its sophomore effort, Audio, Video, Disco, instead setting its gaze on the indulgent realm of early-'70s prog rock. Apparently, the choice was a poor one, as the album is a watered-down pastiche of that dubious genre at best, and just flat-out laughable at worst.
As Pitchfork contributor Ian Cohen comedically tweeted earlier this month, there isn't much that's good about Audio, Video, Disco. Opening track "Horsepower," with its gnarled bass tone and thudding rhythms, might give off the impression that Justice is embarking on a second round of †, but that notion is quickly ushered away by the second tune, lead single "Civilization" (you might remember our brief review of the cut). This song perfectly encapsulates what is wrong with Augé's and de Rosnay's new approach: Unlike recent era-referencing albums like M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming or Ford & Lopatin's Channel Presure, Audio is mostly devoid of any kind of sincerity or new ideas. It honestly sounds like the producers recorded a prime-time session off the local classic-rock station, ran it through chorus and distortion pedals, and sent it off to the label—smirking all the while. (And that's not to mention that "Civilization" almost certainly samples the synths from "Baba O'Reily," which is adding a bit of insult to injury when coupled with Justice's Photoshopped homage to The Who's iconic album cover.)
But it's ultimately "New Lands," a tinny pastiche of Eagles-esque dad rock, that takes Audio down the path of no return. The kitsch levels of its AM radio-ready chorus—complete with multiple-harmony vocal hooks and choppy guitar riffs—reach critical mass, as does its half-baked, Blue Öyster Cult-jam-session breakdown. During the record's first half, tracks like "Ohio" and "On'n'On" toy with the same motifs (although with hints of Led Zeppelin in the mix), but manage to retain sparse elements of the Justice we knew and loved. And yet, the processed guitar tones are thin and generic, the bass is void of any frequency approaching the sub range, the drums might as well be Fruity Loops presets, and all vocal sounds are fuzzy with superimposed hiss. Just about anything remotely compelling could be easily categorized as well-traveled Daft Punk territory. It would appear that Justice's schtick on Audio, Video, Disco largely involved soullessly regurgitating the sounds of rock and roll's past into faux dance music. Fingers crossed that they skip over psych rock next time.
Listen to Audio, Video, Disco here.