Justice is back with an electro house follow-up to their electro house follow-up to their electro house debut. As their records have gone on, their personality and pop has been shaved off and streamlined to the point of becoming a background music perfect for commercials. The duo have lost me here on there third record.
Justice started out as a poor man’s Daft Punk. The anonymity, the electroclash bangers, mixed with a pinch of disco and 70’s vibes worked well in 2007. We were two years removed from Daft Punk’s weakest record — the underrated but not priceless Human After All, and we were six years away from Daft’s impossibly perfect Random Access Memories. The void was real, and it was filled by Justice.
Woman begins with one of its best. The first track has a strong beat with a delicious bass line riding on top the whole length. The choir on “Safe and Sound” is chilling and engaging, like a modern day Pink Floyd choir of adults. But where Pink Floyd stood for the end of mass production humanity, what does Justice stand for? Not justice? Perhaps just some sort of general positivity? The lyrics come across as second rate Daft Punk leftovers — “Man up/Hold tight/Driving dark/Head up/Foot down/Speed of sound.” This would be indicative of the general weakness of Justice. The song sounds perfect, not one note out of place, not one effect wasted, but to bring all this energy and lay the choir on top without a message is a wasted opportunity.
If the lyrics on the first song seem weak, then you might want to stop reading. “Pleasure” has a solid melody hook on the chorus, but hearing the falsetto sing “Use imagination as a destination” sounds way more like the cheesy 70’s songs they are inspired by than they would have wanted. Maybe talking about lyrics on a Justice record isn’t the point? Ok, lets discuss the tones and instrumentation.
“Alakazam” is the first instrumental track on the record, and it’s a banger. An arpeggiated synthesizer holds your attention until a driving beat with a rhythmic base pulses in, a synth sweeps in at each 16 measure break, until you can’t wait anymore for the song to explode. When it finally sets itself free, a solid, hooky, grungy synth rambles around waiting for a magic synth tone to chime in like a school bell on Mars. The song is propulsive and catchy, and it makes you wonder what a full record like this would sound like.
“Randy” kicks in like it has something to prove. The disco vocals on top of stuttering drums and exhaust pipe synths work with nice hook — “Make your mind up”. When they hit the title of the song, it becomes clear it is some type of European double entendre on the name which means sexually aroused or excited. Jokes don’t exactly hit right in the Justice universe of self-seriousness. The hook would fit better on a Junior Senior record.
The closing track “Close Call” is a good reminder of what we have loved about Justice. It builds slowly over a steady underground beat with rainbow synths. It is restrained and classy, a unique moment for an underwhelming record. Kitschy 70’s synths and live drums abound throughout. The lyrics and vocals continue to distract from the true draw of the production. We are almost a decade on from the release of “D.A.N.C.E.” and not even the faintest idea of a follow up single that could match the power of that track. Perhaps it is time to just admit that Justice were a one hit wonder and move on. C