Occasionally artists tell the truth. When asked about the direction the new album was taking, Xavier de Rosnay (Half of French Duo, Justice) replied "the album would have a bit more sunshine... daytime music". He wasn't lying. Fours years after their massively successful debut Cross, they are set to release Audio, Video, Disco next week. While it's bound to be compared to their first album, the new material takes a lot of risks, with results good and bad.
If you are looking for the funk and strings of DVNO, you won't find it. How about the distortion and stutter of Waters of Nazareth? Nope. A hint of D.A.N.C.E., their biggest hit? Maybe. While most of the last album was constructed on a computer, this one was created with real instruments, giving it a completely different feel. They may not be the greatest musicians, but surprisingly, it's the live tracks that show the most growth and the electro instrumentals that feel a bit stale.
Horsepower, the opening track felt wrong from the beginning. Did anyone else think they were about to hear Michael Jackson's Beat It? It's basically a drawn out intro to Civilization with the last 30 seconds sounding like something from Legends of Zelda. Civilization was supposed to a hit. Similar to D.A.N.C.E. and tied to a worldwide Adidas campaign, it's the best example of both styles working together. Lyrics have never been their strong suit and you can get away with it when you are asking people to dance the night away. But, "Beating of a million drums/The fire of a million guns/The mother of a million sons" just seems lazy and lethargic.
Thank god for On'N'On, easily the best track. It really saves the album after the average Ohio and Canon. On'N'On is fluid from beginning to end, the vocals and strings build the song properly and it gives you a brief glimpse of what might be. After such great promise and excitement, we get Brainvision which features the most guitar, albeit single-note, and little else. It's these missteps, followed by the bland Parade that frustrate me the most. They are failing where they should be succeeding. Just give me a great synth line with some energy!
Amazingly, they seem to get it together at the end. I can't say a bad thing about the final three songs. New Lands starts off by borrowing the riff from Ac/Dc's For Those About to Rock and there's nothing wrong with that. The breakdown in the middle is just enough to indulge in while resisting the temptation to make a mess of a very good song. Helix is what they do. You've got it all, stuttering vocals, great hook, focus and energy. It was originally reported that this was going to be left off the album (it was included on the Audio, Video, Disco EP), but this song restored my faith in them. While the closing track doesn't break new ground, it does give that ray of light, that peak of sunshine. I just wish it didn't take so long.
Rarely do you find a dance album that doesn't have filler, I understand that. But, the peaks and valleys of this album are so far apart that you are left with 5 good songs and 6 bad ones. It's baffling. Despite the fact that half of the album is sub par, I'm very interested to see how it works live. A new album always means a new tour and there's nothing wrong with that. Listen to the whole album below (via NME) and pick it up next Tuesday.