Music is a fickle game; you better stay on the ball or sooner find yourself stranded on the sidelines. It's been around four years now since we last heard from Justice (not counting a live album and handful of remixes) and a lot has changed in the music world – and especially the electronic-leaning circles.
The Ed Banger pair, less well-known as Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, released their debut – the verbally-challenging '†' album – in 2007. Back then the world was on a nu-rave comedown and needed something a little bit meatier, thus Justice's cross-germination of electro and rock was a perfect fit for our eager ears.
But now nu-rave has come and – thankfully – gone, the French house scene that surrounded the band is dwindling and the many dub sub-genres currently in vogue are completely opposed to what Justice stood for. So before the formation of this very record, the group were posed with difficult decision to make: to stay true to their art or to adapt to their new settings.
The Parisian duo's 2011 follow-up 'Audio, Video, Disco', which probably sounds much better in their native tongue, clearly shows from the outset that they have gone with the former option. All the things that made us fall head-over-heels for the group in the first place are still there and out in force: the disco stabs, the racing arpeggios, pounding drums, the dip-in dip-out suspense-building production, the guitar-rock infused inspirations. All the signature Justice criteria have been ticked.
Lead single 'Civilisation' is shoots to the forefront as a clear highlight, albeit sounding a little too close to the previous album's 'DVNO' for comfort. But that track, so it's best not to dwell and simply enjoy it in all its toe-tapping glory.
This is not an entire regurgitation of their first offering, however. There's a clear 80s hair-metal influence on the album, much stronger than in anything they had done before – with mid-album track 'Canon' taking a guitar riff that you'd expect Slash to be knocking out on top of a breezy mountain peak before distorting it to within an inch of its life. The album also differs from its predecessor in its stadium rock vibe, with a lot of the tracks having an expansive arena feel to them - such as 'On n On' which does indeed go on and on a bit, but would undoubtedly leave jam-packed crowds baying for an encore. 'Parade' even contains a Fratellis-esque singularly-syllabic chorus that you can sing along to, which you definitely couldn't say about the first album's 'Phantom' or the like.
But largely 'Audio, Video, Disco' follows the same formula as '†' which, while thoroughly enjoyable, lets itself down only in its clear lack of ambition. Sticking to your own sound and not jumping on whatever bandwagon passes you by is ethically sound but growth, maturity and change should be the natural progress of any band, singer or musicians and if Justice aren't lucky then the surrounding world might just leave them behind. And that would be a terrible shame and waste for the former 'future' of dance and electronic music.