August 30, 2007

On the Sixth Day We Danced

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Justice, like their legal name suggests, ruled my summer. I heard the Parisian duo’s latest album, ✝, played at all of the dance clubs and noticed it name-dropped in many of my oft-frequented music blogs. While I wholly enjoyed Justice’s eager acceptance into our summer’s sonic lexicon, I feel about Justice the same way I feel about Harry Potter: Completely enjoyable but in some ways artistically questionable.
The album is not groundbreaking and does little to challenge the genre. Indeed, it sounds fresh to American ears largely because we have not turned our attention to Paris’s scene since Phoenix’s or Daft Punk’s last album.
Nevertheless, Justice created such a well-crafted, highly accessible electro-disco record that it remains on many lists as one of the best dance albums of the past year. I hope it’s not sacrilege to go so far as to liken Justice’s record to a religious experience, but this record is, quite literally, biblical.
The first track, “Genesis,” begins with a slow, thirty-second introduction, peppered with tympanis and a synthesizer crescendo. Then, like the mighty hand of God, the beat drops and the heavy bass line — reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” — carries the track to its end. Like any good dance record, the songs are seamless; the second cut’s content and title are a play off the first: “Let There Be Light,” which is lighter than “Genesis,” and functions as an apértif to the heady disco hit of the summer, “D.A.N.C.E.”
When a gang of children command me to “D.A.N.C.E.,” it’s difficult not to follow orders — as in this epic chorus. I found myself constantly singing its infectious, elementary school playground refrain: “Do the D.A.N.C.E, 1-2-3-4-right/ Stick to the B.E.A.T., get ready to ignite.” This song, more so than any other on the album, is the most obvious nod to some of Justice’s influences: fellow countrymen Daft Punk and Michael Jackson. It is also arguably the easiest track to dance to — perhaps why Justice chose it to be the first single.
The rest of the album — with the exception of the eighth and ninth tracks, “TTHHEE PPAARRTTYY” (ft. Uffie), and “DVNO,” which shows off Justice’s vocal skills — is purely electronic and makes no further mention of dancing or partying. Instead, an ominous mood imbues the album, especially in the track “Stress,” which has a synth line that sounds eerily similar to the “Jaws” theme. Likewise, the second-to-last track, “Waters of Nazareth,” sounds like a sonic interpretation of the Book of Revelation as the record slowly marches toward the apocalyptic, doomsday clock climax of “One Minute to Midnight.”
While their album is outstanding in its own right, Justice’s ✝ is little more than standard Parisian dance fare and therefore doesn’t challenge listeners any more than Daft Punk’s “Discovery” might. Even so, there’s no denying that something spectacular happens to the three little bones in one’s ear when this album hits, and so when Justice said, “We shall release an album,” release they did. And it was good.