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.