After years of radio silence, French electronic music duo Justice have arrived back on the scene with the release of their third album, “Woman.” For those of you who are scratching your head saying “who?” take a step back and breathe in some musical history.
This band exploded onto the global electronic music scene with their debut album † (pronounced “Cross”) released in 2007, with their hit single “D.A.N.C.E.” and one of my personal favorite jams “Genesis.”
Tragically, even when their fame was climbing, they still seemed criminally underplayed and underappreciated.
An acquaintance of mine who loved Daft Punk sought to introduce us collective heathens to the likes of this new French house. Behind a suburban outlet mall, on a dark night in a smoke-filled car, he tossed on the track “One Minute to Midnight” and rattled those cheap, sub-standard stock speakers till the air reverberated.
That was my first taste of Justice and IT WAS FIRE! It was different! It was heavy, distorted, rock-based-disco-pumping-EDM-filtering-soul-rattling-tunes. Grab the spoon and get the lighter — I was hooked.
For my closest friends and I, that album was thematic of a new birth. An anthem of sorts. It encapsulated my bubble of existence, and I soon found myself catapulted into a psychedelic ride involving outdoor music festivals, moon parties, interesting people, and even more interesting substances. I was balls deep in the hippie lifestyle and enjoying every minute of it.
I was stoked to hear that Justice was dropping a new album, especially after a four year hiatus and a somewhat questionable second release. The critics felt that the sequel to † came across as underwhelming, and the duo may have been a bit gunshy in coming to release another album. Even Gaspard Augé, a co-founding member of Justice, admitted to Maxim, “We’re so used to having half of people liking something and the other half hating it.”
Like “2001: Space Odyssey,” “The Dark Knight,” and a myriad of other films, a good opener can set the tone for the entire film, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear the first track on the album, “Safe and Sound,” was gold. I knew instantly the band had changed directions, but the talent and gifted musical ability was still there. The song is in all respects a cousin to their debut hit single “D.A.N.C.E.,” with an angelic chorus providing a repetitive soothing tone, but the personality of the song is a disco funk.
“Safe and Sound” comes at us with more romance and uplift than previously seen in their work, and pairs well with the album’s name. The duo even commented on the namesake to Maxim: “To us, it represents power and strength. It’s a symbol of giving life to something, which is an act of God.” In all respect I think this track was meant to set the foundation for their comeback, and in a way, their own rebirth. It was a homage to the fans, to the music world, and to themselves.
From the dance floor jiving to slick bass and disco organs, we proceed into the track “Alakazam,” which continues the vibe of upbeat mellow flows. The song plays out more like a fast-paced, trancy, futuristic club mixer than the dynamic gritty sound they were initially praised for. Though that should not diminish anything from the track, as it is clear their direction has changed but the †-level elements are there: they have just been polished up.
“Randy,” the album’s true single, evokes a tale of lust and love. The undertones are reminiscent of an arcade game, with the vocals of a sly younger man, while the shimmering synth culminates into a totally joyous and playful song. “It’s time that you listen up and hear the call / There at the water but at night you’re on fire.” I can’t help but be taken back to yesteryears, into a young adolescent’s first bouts into the realm of romance.
It’s irony to me that I would have a chance to review an album that seemingly is about the rebirth of a cherished band, when they helped to fuel one of my own rebirths nearly a decade ago. Is this a universal symbol that the path I’ve been following has been right? Mufasa, have I been doing the things needed for spiritual ascension? Are the members of Justice and myself intrinsically placarded in some otherly dimensional rift and our fates coincided? Maybe.
For now, all I know is that Justice is back ladies and gentlemen.