All things considered, it really is quite surprising that Justice‘s electro renovation has lasted as long as it has. Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay’s 2007 debut Cross was impossible to ignore. Its wanton refuge in fellow French producers Daft Punk’s catalogue appeased anyone waiting for The Robotic Ones to make a decadent return to form and found its own niche in many a dance-loving heart. But as the Skins-twisted lights of yore started to fade, so did the duo’s overall relevance. The crest of the wave was only going to last so long. So the arrival of Audio, Video, Disco does little to dissuade from the idea that their time of heady popularity was short for a reason.
Trading in much of their trademark pop hedonism for a glorified take on much of their own musical heritage (references to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Cheap Trick, Queen and the like abound), Audio, Video, Disco is something of a strained return. Granted, the accelerated brilliance of their heyday is there for all to hear on tracks like Civilisation and the infectious riff of Helix, but for the most part their attempts at changing things in favour of a slower, more R’n’B influenced sound washes an unwanted dullness over almost everything. “For us this is the Route 66 album,” says Auge. “It’s a French album, with all these English influences from the ‘60s and ‘70s, but it has that American wide open thing going on too.” All of which adds up to something of a dog’s dinner.
Opener Horsepower is a hopeful stride forth, but as things turn to the sultry with Ohio, their vocal-led endeavours fall flat-faced to the floor. Without the melodic nous of their Parisian forefathers, trying to replicate the vigour and urgency of the guitar music they so enjoy through their electronic methods proves for the listener to be a test of endurance. Brianvision attempts to make the most out of an aimless Bill and Ted guitar solo but fails, Parades attempts stadium glam through synthetic means and fades into obscurity before returning almost at random with a panpipe ode to itself, whilst Newlands’ Dire Straits guitar flaps lose none of their dated haze even through this neo-revivalist guise.
Considering Auge and de Rosnay made a worthy name for themselves with some of the finest electro-pop of the last decade, it’s a real shame that this effort has not expanded on that sense of unhindered fun and joyous melody. It’s admirable that they have made such a shameless ode to that which they deem most important to their musical output, or at least what they thought might sell, but the way in which it seems so forced and uncomfortable is the opposite of what anyone would have expected. Maybe for their next effort they’ll become one of those Return To Form acts, just like their heroes.