These days the electronic music scene is obsessed with the bleeding edge, exploring ever-evolving sub-genres such as chillwave, dubstep, and moombahton like Lewis and Clark with a Macbook Pro. Every day a new sound springs from nowhere to be the next big thing; blink and you can miss an entire movement. How do you stay ahead of the curve? Justice went backwards. WAAAAAY backwards. Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge, the duo behind the critically acclaimed and wildly successful DJ group, produced a dance record influenced heavily by the progressive rock sounds of the 70’s and 80’s. On paper this marriage seems doomed for a messy end, but it not only works, it thrives.
The task of linking these two genres, separated by more than three decades, is daunting. But the duo have done a superb job of balancing the experimental with what they know. Several times you drift for extended periods on harmonizing vocals or heavy riffs before the beat reels you back in. There are brief times when the album feels too familiar (“On’n’On” pretty much steals the riff to Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”). Rest assured that there are plenty of the trademark fuzzy, crunchy, downright grimy synths to go around. The album just works, plain and simple. Press play and get ready for a dance-themed tour through the 70’s wing of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Avant-garde blogs (hint hint: Pitchfork) may rip the album, sighting the lack of a main element of progressive rock: execution. I disagree entirely. Justice didn’t set out to make a sprawling over the top album full of long tracks and unusual sounds. Instead, they merely made a record that highlighted the parallels between the two eras. The same way Justice, Skrillex, Diplo, and others push each other to create these days is exactly the same as it was done 30 plus years ago. This is not a true prog rock album, merely a dance-pop album dressed up in the platform shoes and sequined jumpsuit it found in its parents’ attic.