opinion by BRENDAN FRANK
An ocean divided the critical consensus to Django Django’s self-titled debut. British publications drooled, while their North American counterparts shrugged a collective shoulder. That kind of hometown support is valuable. But it can also suggest a lack of cultural currency outside of native borders. This is the same problem encountered by Editors or Super Furry Animals, album after album. But it's one that Alt-J and Bloc Party overcame with their debuts. Not that Django’s sound is overly British. It calls on a multitude of styles and sounds, from the beachside pop of Jagwar Ma, to the psych strangeness of Yeasayer, to the robust electro grooves of Hot Chip.
In principle, the fundamentals of Django’s sound shouldn’t preclude transatlantic appeal. The subtle contours and smoothed out eccentricities of Born Under Saturn may even help their case. Django’s approach is more centrist this time around, leaving little that could be called disagreeable, and even less you could deem celebratory. Neither as lively nor as fun as the band’s debut, it struggles to tap into the sense of spontaneity that fueled its predecessor. Notable exceptions include jazzy lead-in “Giant” and “Beginning to Fade”. Both display singer Vincent Neff’s proclivity for a fastball vocal hook.
No matter its origins, Born Under Saturn is only intermittently gripping. Certain tracks feel heavily procedural and oddly joyless given the album’s lighthearted tone. Tracks clearly intended as good-natured fun (“Shake and Tremble” and “Pause Repeat”) simply grate. Their grooves feel half-finished, and flat production choices leave little on which to cleave. This beast is not half as exciting as it could be. C+