In the event that you were under a rock somewhere when “D.A.N.C.E.” was everyone’s favorite song, you may not be too familiar with Justice. They’re an electronic duo hailing from Paris that has been widely respected in the dance music world since they rocked their way onto the scene. They don’t go off standard DJ gimmicks like light-up helmets or playing mouse like Deadmau5, nor did they gain notoriety for being a scene-kid-turned-dubstep-superstar (I’m looking at you, Skrillex). Rather, these French dudes spin their tunes while sporting black leather jackets, like true rock stars.
Justice first hit it big with their widely successful debut album †, released in 2007. As mentioned, “D.A.N.C.E.” hit it big, spawning many remixes. The album was Grammy nominated for Best Electronic/Dance Album, and their remix of MGMT’s “Electric Feel” won the Grammy for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical. The cross on the album cover of Audio Video Disco is no surprise then, as it has somewhat become iconic for the duo. They have clarified in the past, however, that it is symbolic of music as a religion, of everyone in a club coming together for one purpose, one higher meaning.
And while Justice is without a doubt an electronic dance group, this album is not to be lumped in with the rest of electronic that is gaining such popularity lately. This album is not for the dub-heads in search of the newest, dirtiest bass drop, nor is it for the club kids looking for some cool new mash-ups and remixes. No matter how electronic and synthesized, Audio Video Disco is a rock album through and through, and it truly rocks and rolls. Just when a song is sounding too tame, we get slammed with another electro guitar riff.
Album opener “Horsepower” immediately sets the tone for the album: strong electro that rocks right up in your face. A song without vocals has to have impressive instrumentals, and this does; it’s comparable to the best tracks off Ratatat’s Classics or Daft Punk’s Discovery.
Second track “Civilization” was the first single, debuting with an epic music video reminiscent of the quirky celestial rock of Empire of the Sun. It sounds like ’80s synth rock but with more power, and the piano lines bring a new dimension while the percussion is used as a sort of heavy rhythmic punctuation. While this, too, has lyrics, there are still plenty of songs that employ nothing but sheer synthetic orchestration. Feel the beats in instrumental songs like “Canon” and “Brainvision.”
“On’n’on” is another song with vocals, often using clever lyrics to describe things that go “on and on;” see “Some day the grapes will be wine and someday you will be mine / and so the story goes on and on.” “Ohio” is the least heavy of the rock-esque tracks, and has one of the highest potentials for being spun at clubs. It’s also a bit reminiscent of Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock.” Similarly, “Helix” also gives off this vibe, or brings us back to Justice’s old “We Are Your Friends.” In the same vein, title track and album closer “Audio Video Disco” combines heavy beats, electronic rock, and repeated vocals to create a sound that closes off the album perfectly. My only complaint would be that “Audio” sounds a bit like “Oreo,” but hey, they’re French.