Review of Justice’s album Audio, Video, Disco

Released through Ed Banger.

We’ve been waiting four years to hear Justice’s sophomore album, with fans of the band, myself included, close to edge of our seats in anticipation for what future sounds the Parisian duo would unleash. Interviews with the band prior to the release revealed that the band would be moving away from the darker side of electro found on their first album and producing more ‘daytime music.’ Those of you questioning just how dark such tracks as ‘DVNO’ or ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ exactly are, you are not alone. Nonetheless every band, regardless of genre, is bound to change direction in their career and why should Justice be any exception.

On their first album, _, or Cross if you prefer, the band’s sound is colossal at times, perhaps no more so than the introduction on ‘Genesis.’ The opening horns could quite easily bring down the Walls of Jericho and few opening tracks of last decade could quite compare. Understandably then with the opening track on Audio, Video, Disco the duo, it seems, have tried to duplicate the rapturous introduction with ‘Horsepower.’ Unfortunately however, they could not have been further away. The first few bars of music build up and expectations for at least a decent drop are high, but this expectation is shattered and instead all that is given to the listener is a dreadfully archaic synth-line. It genuinely sounds like the music that would accompany you after completing one of the boss levels of an Atari game, maybe even as far forward as a SNES boss but definitely no further in time. But as already alluded to this is a new Justice sound, with new being used very loosely.

With a little discretion the duo could have utilized the Prog-infused sound they seem to have picked up well, with a use of synths and recycled 70s bass-lines that would make Rick Wakeman proud. Yet whilst the songs do have the bombast of an early Queen record they completely lack the charisma and progression the highlights that Prog offered. Just looking at the album cover alone you get a sense of Justice experiencing a blast from the past. The symbolic cross on the cover is now a monolithic rock slab, nothing like the sleek outline of _ or the bright neon glow found at one of their famed live shows. This sense of a step taken backwards rather than forwards can be found even in the group’s videos. ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ was a pleasure to behold visually as much as it was to listen to, yet with ‘Civilization,’ the first single from the record, the visuals are confused and over the top. It is not too dissimilar to a ridiculously filmed Ridley Scott directed TV advertisement from the 1980s.

Whilst the duo has begun to change its sound, some of their earlier influences can still be found. ‘Brianvision’ has a distinctly Daft Punk sound, with the all too familiar guitar licks, however as this song leads on to ‘Parade’ the sound is this time obstructed by a much more hair-metal series of guitar riffs. The title track, and arguably the album highlight, harmoniously makes use of the distorted vocals and builds steadily. The fact that it is the album closer makes sense in the bigger picture, as it is an album made up of half-baked ideas and influences.

At times the album is enjoyable, the major problem being that they seem to be toning down their sound too much and rather than developing a sound that has genuine mass appeal, like Daft Punk, they are trying to take the easy route out and give us something they think will receive a decent amount of airplay in an attempt to cash in on the David Guetta et al. frenzy that is for some reason taking over the world of pop. Unfortunately the album hardly needs revisiting, unlike the first offering from the Parisians, with the only question remaining being why did this take four years to make? Ed Banger, and in particular Justice, have always had, it seemed, a forward facing view on how their electro should sound. Audio, Video, Disco it seems is the great step backwards.

Justice – Audio Visual Disco (Ed Banger) By: Joe Daniels

Justice – Audio Visual Disco (Ed Banger)
By: Joe Daniels

Shuffling back into our consciousness with stunted single releases rather than a full-blown comeback of PR-fodder proportion, Justice, with Audio, Video, Disco have cemented their position as one of Europe’s most approachable genre-hopping electronic bands. Their return, after four years away since Cross first grabbed our attention, is something of an exercise in moderation, making the baying public wait until the band is good and ready, but thankfully it is an album joyous and exuberant enough to justify any liberties taken over its release.

With opening track ‘Horsepower’ living up to its title, and pounding the listener with it’s stomp-along beat, reminiscent of 70s cop show chase music, the pace is set. It’s a phenomenal way to start the record, and it’s entirely at odds with the restraint leading up to the album’s release. Next up is ‘Civilization’, a track with us for months now, which is somehow able to sound like ‘Baba O’Rielly’ and ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ at once.

What is immediately noticeable from the first spin is that this is a record indebted to the past, though this is not to its discredit. There are influences from across the musical spectrum: the odd touch of Hair Metal guitar on ‘Canon’, the Example-esque multi-tracked vocals on ‘On’n’on’, the Queens of the Stone Age-inflected chug-riffs of ‘Newlands’ – everything is thrown in to the melting pot of pop, from 1970 onwards, without ever sounding derivative. Indeed, what makes this album so interesting is that it isn’t any one influence in any one song that you can pick out and trace, like some sort of pop-archeologist, but the different strands feed off and into one another. The result is a seamlessly organic, though entirely rollicking run-down of what pop music can and should be.

The songs also stand by themselves, bereft of any snot-nosed historicism, so when the hypnotically danceable album closer, Audio, Video, Disco winds down, you’re left reminded just why you missed them during their four years in the wilderness.

Much has been made of the notion of this album as ‘daytime’ music opposed to Cross’s ‘nighttime’. Justice themselves have tried their best to stifle too much overthinking, but what they can’t stifle is the fact that this album stands up alongside their first, regardless of the hour.

Justice – Civilization (directed by Edouard Salier)

Justice is a French electronic music duo consisting of Gaspard Augé (born 21 May 1979 in Besançon, Doubs) and Xavier de Rosnay (born 2 July 1982 in Ozoir-la-Ferrière, Seine et Marne). The duo is one of the most successful groups on Ed Banger Records and is managed by the label’s head, Pedro Winter. Justice is known for incorporating a strong rock and indie influence into their music and image. However, the duo do not want to be called “rockers” because they think their rock influence is more visual than musical.

Their debut album † was released in June 2007 to critical acclaim. The album was later nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album. Their remix of the MGMT song “Electric Feel” won the Grammy Award for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical in 2009.

Justice : “Nous ne sommes pas des rockers !”

Avant d’entamer la tournée des festival d’été, le duo français Justice sera en concert au zénith de Paris demain et jeudi. Quatre ans après le succès mondial de leur premier album, Xavier de Rosnay et Gaspard Augé gardent les pieds sur terre.


Souvenez-vous. La croix obèle, la pénombre, deux inconnus propulsés nouveaux fers de lance de “french touch”. Le duo Justice fut la sensation de l’année 2007. Comme un groupe de rock, Xavier de Rosnay et Gaspard Augé ont envahi les salles de concerts, transformé les pistes de danse en ring de boxe avec une électro énergique, voire agressive. Leurs tournées ont même fait l’objet d’un documentaire détonnant réalisé par Romain Gavras (fils de Costa-Gavras et réalisateur de certains clips du duo). Avec leur dernier album, Audio, video, disco, les deux membres de Justice restent humbles et rejettent l’étiquette hard rock qui leur colle au veston. Un renouvellement musical réussi.

Avec le recul, comment vous analysez le succès immense de votre premier album et de vos tournées?

Xavier de Rosnay: Tout ça reste assez mystérieux pour nous en réalité. Et puis, on ne cherche pas à vraiment savoir pourquoi, car dès que tu rentres là-dedans, tu commences à prendre en compte les attentes des gens pour ensuite reproduire les succès. On veut continuer à faire une musique qui nous paraît naturelle et nous amuse. Le seul moyen de garder le cap, c’est d’être un peu égoïste et de ne pas du tout penser au public.

Vous n’avez pas peur que justement beaucoup de gens soient déçus par la nouvelle direction que prend Justice, à savoir des morceaux beaucoup moins agressifs?

Xavier de Rosnay: C’est amusant car on a toujours eu ce genre de problèmes. On a rarement de bons retours sur nos morceaux au moment où ils sortent. ‘Waters Of Nazareth’ par exemple, ça a été un cauchemar pendant trois mois. Quand on le jouait, les gens partaient de la salle, les ingénieurs du son se demandaient même s’il n’y avait pas un problème technique ! Du coup, on se posait beaucoup de questions, on se demandait si on n’était pas en train de se suicider musicalement. Et puis finalement, ça a marché. À chaque single, les gens se demandent pourquoi ce n’est pas comme avant… C’est aussi pour cela que notre succès nous intrigue.

Avec cet état d’esprit, vous avez pu enregistrer ce second album sans pression?

Xavier de Rosnay: Quand on ne se pose pas de questions, automatiquement on n’a pas de pression. On n’a pas essayé de reproduire la même chose mais on n’a pas tout changé non plus. ‘Cross’ était un disque radical, celui-ci l’est tout autant, mais de manière un peu différente.

‘Cross’ a été beaucoup comparé à du hard rock au niveau des influences. Qu’en est-il pour ‘Audio, Video, Disco’?

Xavier de Rosnay: Tous nos morceaux ont les mêmes influences. Mais l’étiquette « hard rock » est plus quelque chose de visuel. Nos gueules, notre façon de nous habiller et le décorum sur scène est rock ont beaucoup orienté la façon dont les gens ont écouté notre musique. Notre influence rock est plus visuelle que strictement musicale. On n’est pas des rockers !

Musicalement, par rapport au premier, il y a un petit côté rétro, voire même kitsch. C’est voulu?

Xavier de Rosnay: Pas du tout. Je n’ai aucune idée de ce qui est cool ou ringard et Gaspard non plus je pense… Mais si ça sonne ringard par moments, c’est peut-être parce qu’on est ringards, tout bêtement. (Rires)

Vous avez joué pour la première fois vos nouveaux morceaux dans un petit club au lieu d’une salle de concert. Cela a dû vous changer?

Xavier de Rosnay: C’était super ! C’était la bonne taille de salle. On était étonné de voir comment sonnaient les nouveaux morceaux vu que c’est la première fois qu’on les entend aussi forts. J’ai l’impression que les gens ont beaucoup apprécié, alors que ce ne sont pas forcément des chansons qui se prêtent à ce genre d’espace. On voulait jouer en club pour faire transpirer les gens et je crois qu’on a réussi.

Vous préférez jouer vos morceaux en situation de live que dans les clubs?

Gaspard Augé: Non, pas forcément. Quand on fait les DJ dans un club, on passe de la musique, pas que la nôtre, pour que les gens s’amusent et dansent. En live, on ne joue que nos morceaux donc on se permet plus de choses. Les chansons sont simplifiées, ça les rend par essence plus efficaces et ça transmet plus d’émotions.

Est-ce que la locution latine “audio, video, disco” (« j’entends, je vois, j’apprends »), c’est votre définition de Justice?

Xavier de Rosnay: Oui et en plus on trouvait que ça sonnait bien ! Ce n’est pas loin de la vérité et ce n’est pas de la fausse modestie de dire ça. On est encore jeunes, toujours en phase d’apprentissage. Mais surtout on essaye toujours de faire des disques comme si c’était le premier, de manière assez naïve et sincère.