I am a professional. When I listen to an album to write about it, I try my best to keep composure, and to keep my ears as finely tuned as I can to pick up the subtleties of any given album. Sometimes are easier than others to keep said composure, but for the most part, I always keep my cool, no matter the record. So believe me when I say, it was the will of the beat of “Civilization” that I bounce around in my chair, pounding my fist in the air like a madman, that I still want to write about Audio Video Disco as a piece of an artist’s catalog, rather than mindless dance beats pounding off into the ether.
To say that Justice are forever in the debt of Daft Punk is a ridiculous understatement. It’s entirely possible that Justice only ever rose to hilariously massive popularity because of their nostalgia-ridden robot beats, and their wholesale theft of Discovery-era aesthetics. But really, who cares? The fact is, Justice always took that Daft Punk sound and made it incredibly abrasive, which changed the context of the songs. It’s evident in the stomping beat of a song like “Civilization” that “the beating of a million drums” is meant to be a clarion call, more than anything else. Justice have always been the band that was too cool to hide their faces behind helmets, but not too cool to make music to stand in one place to. Their last outing, Cross, was an infectious thrill-ride, complete with some of the most compelling hooks you’ve ever heard. Were you to even try not to shake your ass to most of that record, I’m certain your brain would overload your own free will, and force it upon you anyway.
This record sounds a lot like Cross did, but only because it sounds, at times, like a continuation of that record. Since that record was released in the faraway land of 2007, Justice have been in a strange sort of hibernation, not making any indication of putting out anything new, until “Civilization” showed up in an Adidas ad earlier this year. It seems, during that period, they’ve honed their craft a good amount, and it shows here. Each song feels like the more-assured older brother of the songs from Cross, and though they’re just as interested in making you dance, they’re a little less interested in making you chant the words of each song back at them.
When the songs on Audio Video Disco have lyrics, they feel more “real” than they did on Cross. Underneath that trademark Justice stomp, there’s an old soul song to be had in “On ‘n’ On”: “Someday the grapes will be wine / Someday you will be mine / And so the story goes on and on.” At times, you almost feel like Justice embedded a simple message into some of the songs: Everything is old, everything is new. But really, it almost seems unfair to write about Disco, as if there were a meaning behind everything. The album plays like a wordless manifesto, but the undercurrent of that manifesto is that, above all else, you should spend your time dancing your ass off, and enjoying your life. It’s an album that could almost be made for your headphones, but is more concerned with how powerful your speakers at home are. Once the album gets into full swing, you realize that Justice wanted to, above all else, make an album that sounds big. And they succeeded. It’s pointless to inject any kind of meaning into the massive beats of a song like “Helix,” or the piano breakdown halfway through “Audio Video Disco,” because that’s not what these songs are about. And then, really, that’s how Daft Punk was, too: The thrill is in the life you live through these songs.
To wrap it up: Forget about if it’s as good as Cross, or if it makes up for what you expected from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. Put on some shorts and a tee-shirt, and put on this record, and dance around your living room. Forget the aesthetic. That’s not what Justice is about.