Maybe it’s the assonance, but “Django Django” just makes me think of a kangaroo. This metaphor is only almost accurate in describing the UK group’s jumpy, driving debut full-length, which is more like a mechanic kangaroo busting moves at 120 bpm instead of the more comfortable andante tempo.
In this self-titled debut, the mysterious Edinburgh four-piece puts together an hour’s worth of percussive, beat-driven tracks crafted for hand-clapping and feet-stomping. Django Django keeps it simple: there’s really no change in the time-signature or tempo throughout the entire album, and nearly every song has a similar beat structure with an emphasis on all four beats highlighted by a steady bass drum. It’s like all 13 songs are only a part of a giant (cohesive) dance party.
To this end, Django Django’s name is appropriate in hinting at the group’s sound: a good kind of repetition that’s just catchy enough to not be redundant. Art dance with tribal drumming. Electro-pop with acoustic guitars. Choral sing-a-longs with punchy synth. It’s these contrasts that draws you in while making you do a double take.
Similarly, in this melting pot of an inherently pop album, Django Django still manages to bring interestingly refreshing takes on individual songs. “Introduction” and “Hail Bop” open with tribal chants that lead into something like the soundtrack to an ’80s space exploration movie. These two tracks also establish the steady percussive beat that sets the foundation for the rest of the album. Then, Django Django shells out what sounds like a cowboy western score in “Wor.” The aptly named “Life’s a Beach” juxtaposes a surf rock basis with an eerie melodic motif (reminiscent of a cheesy zombie backtrack à la old school Scooby Doo) and “Skies Over Cairo” uses a modified 12-bar blues chord progression as the backdrop for a riff based on the harmonic minor scale, bringing an Arabian-inspired flair to the piece.
While this makes Django Django sound more like a concept album that’s a mosaic of various (cinematic) influences, the album is still very deeply rooted in what is, when broken down, really just art pop, a very extravagantly tricked out, dressed-up version of pop. Django Django strips some parts away while emphasizing the addictive parts with unique delivery. To make these more interesting, different things work and more digestible, Django Django takes good advantage of contrast. They know that a harmonic minor scale riff would be much more danceable if it’s executed on synth and accompanied by a pulsating, neo-blues progression. On the other hand, to keep things moving, a strong beat in every track that never strays a few clicks away from each other on the metronome acts as a backbone to the entire album to glue the various pieces of the mosaic together.
All of this makes a strong debut from a fairly off-the-radar, enigmatic pop outfit. However, the uneven balance of this vast array of influences irks me. These interestingly unique influences, while act as a nice surprise, are almost random at times. But what makes them work is the ability of Django Django to incorporate them smoothly into their repertoire, sneaking up on the listener and carefully slipping in these references by dressing them up with elaborate pop concoctions. While this is a welcoming introduction to the group, there’s potential for even more crazy partnering of stylized influences from opposite ends of the spectrum with more risky delivery for future albums. But for now, this very put-together, fittingly self-titled effort, working in many unexpected references upon closer inspection, is a great showcase of Django Django’s playful, artful style.
Stream ‘Django Django’ in its entirety here.