Five years after the release of the epic Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Anthony Gonzalez of M83 has released his newest offering, Junk. Just like the previous album, Junk is heavily inspired by the ’80s and aims for feelings of nostalgia.
According to Gonzalez, the album was inspired by ’80s television shows such as Punky Brewster, and the influence is evident. The instrumental song “Moon Crystal” sounds like it belongs as an opening theme to a cheesy ’80s family sitcom. However, this does not mean that “Moon Crystal” is a bad song, or that Junk is a bad album. The song and the album are both fun and silly, not aiming to be a great work of art but succeeding at being a catchy expression of childhood fun.
If you come into this album expecting another Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, you will probably find yourself disappointed. Junk simply does not have the same large-scale ambition, which can be seen in both the album’s title and cover art. However, just because Gonzalez’s aim is different does not mean the album is not worth listening to.
Although Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was probably the better album, there is no reason why Junk should be dismissed completely. This is an album that aims to brings listeners back into childhood, watching sitcoms with lame punchlines followed by laugh tracks. Junk may be a more lighthearted offering than M83’s previous efforts, but the fantastic musicianship is still present in the tracklist.
Although the album is a definite change from M83’s previous albums, some continuity can be found. Like every M83 album, the songs feature a range of live instrumentation. As Gonzalez said in a 2011 interview with Consequence of Sound, “I couldn’t picture myself making an album just on a computer. It’s not my style of making an album.”
Junk does not deviate from Gonzalez’s established style in this regard. Steve Vai delivers an incredible guest guitar solo on “Go!” and a Stevie Wonder-esque harmonica can be heard on the album’s closer, “Saturday Night 1987.”
Though there are no songs that are probably as immediately playable and accessible as Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’s hit “Midnight City”, the album still has some great songs. The song “Bibi the Dog” is a very strange track that features verses of spoken-word French, but it somehow also manages to be a funky song reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall.
“Go!”, one of the singles off the album, is a fun pop song with a great chorus. The closest song to “Midnight City” is probably “Road Blaster”, which is also driven by a catchy riff that sounds like it could have been recorded in the ’80s.
Junk also features several guest artists. French pop singer Mai Lan is present on four different songs, including “Atlantique Sud” where she sings a sweet, soothing duet with Gonzalez. Susanne Sundfør sings over the longing piano ballad “For the Kids,” while Beck makes an appearance on the groovy “Time Wind.”
As cheesy as it might be, Junk is still an album with a lot of catchy songs and skilled instrumentation. Though it’s hard to top the incredible Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Anthony Gonzalez has made another album which will make you feel like a kid again.