Today the brothers Seidler (yes, all three of us) are heading back to Parklife. It will be David’s third outing, Zac’s first and my fifth, because I am clearly a sucker for punishment. As much as we get older and the age bracket of girls in Thing That Pass For Skirts These Days swilling vodka cruisers becomes ever-younger, there’s still something that draws us back to this festival. This is where Dave first got to see Chiddy Bang play, where I discovered Goose and lost my mind to MSTRKRFT, danced on stage for twenty seconds with M.I.A. before being taken out by a security guard and various other exploits that will not be printed here. But every year we manage to find new talent to go home and rave about, which is rare at a festival where we usually know the lineup well in advance. And throughout all of that, almost every year since their debut dropped, there has been Justice.
If you want proof of how far one record can take you, look no further than †, the first album by these leather-jacket wearing, chain-smoking Ed Banger kids which literally turned the dance world upside down in 2007. For the next three years, everything that came out of the electro-house (and hell, even pop) spectrum was trying to recreate the crunching, distortion-heavy sound created by two guys who didn’t even have formal musical training. Australia fell for them early and they just kept coming back, even though all they had to show for themselves in the five intervening years was a bunch of remixes (though, to be fair, they made their name off particularly wonderful remix), standing up there with their wall of amps and that Jesus cross that pissed all the clerics off, smoking and dropping ‘operatic disco’ like it was no big deal. When Audio, Video, Disco eventually hit last year, it was such a long time coming that it never really had the chance to live up to its predecessor. Despite retaining the symbolism and the self-aggrandising imagery, Xavier and Gaspard moved their sound more towards a 70s prog-rock format than sequencers, simply because they felt like it. Many argued that much like their iconography implied, Christ didn’t rise twice, and the two would forever be known as the guys who wrote one really terrific album. But there are some great tunes on this record. And despite bringing in live instruments – who knew that would be considered revolutionary? – it still balls pretty hard.
What Justice got out of their new format that didn’t exist on † is dynamic range. They attempted to achieve this the first time around by simply adding audio tracks and then taking them away, like when they turned Waters of Nazareth from a whining mosquito into a wall of black sludge. But they got a lot more nuance in this incarnation, and you can hear it on ‘Horsepower’. Tri-voiced guitars ring out and fade, to be replaced by other synths. The drums have that flat sound to them, so when they open up properly, they sound rightly massive as they should. Even the fact that there’s a section in 6/8 and another one in 4/4 is a huge move for these guys, because they love sticking to one meter even if it’s a strange one (see ‘Phantom Part I’). When you add it all together, the big showy centrepiece kicks like a mule, and that sliding, crackling bass line followed by the off-beat string hits is such a great idea that you wonder why no other band did it before (hint: they did.) If Justice wanted to continue their legacy, veering to the right may not have been the best idea. But five years later, they’re still here lighting up cancer sticks and watching nonchalantly as kids far too old to still be interested lose their shit. That’s got to count for something, and ‘Horsepower’ might have a lot to do with it.
Justice – ‘Horsepower’