I remember hearing “Civilization,” the first single off of Justice’s Audio, Video, Disco., for the first time all the way back in March when it was first released; to me, it was absolute bliss. It felt like one of those songs that transcended genre in every way. For every ten people that I played “Civilization” for, I would receive ten varying responses, all of which landed on the side of positive. I soaked it up for a month or two, occasionally ran to it during the summer (perfect song to run to), but gradually forgot about it over time. I think you’re bound to run into that problem when you release a single seven months before the album. Nonetheless, when I saw Audio, Video, Disco. being released last week, all of those positive “Civilization” experiences came rushing back. However the album turned out, I was happy to listen to it once again.
I think it goes without saying that the first two songs of the album totally delivered. It starts with a track officially listed as “Horsepower,” but it really just served as three and a half minute intro in to “Civilization” from my vantage. It’s done with virtually the same sound and incorporates a lot of the similar “DUHN! DUHN!” drum moments. By the time you arrive at the overpowering intro to “Civilization,” the album feels on pace to be something special. The song delivers as much as it did the first, second… three-hundredth time I heard it. Somehow it manages to deliver as much punch as a hard rock stadium anthem without losing the groove of their electronic roots.
The inevitable problem with the entire album (which I was blinded to due to my music crush of track two), rears its head with “Ohio,” a mashed-up robotic chant that drags on for four inexplicable minutes. I can’t really blame Justice for these songs that feel homeless; it’s the negative side of their incredibly ambitious endeavors. Essentially, what they are trying to do here is fuse hard rock with electronic music. Sometimes it comes together for a gorgeous composition like “Civilization,” or the pump up drum-laced “Parade,” and other times, like on the aforementioned “Ohio” or the downright sloppy “Canon,” it just never really gels. My respect for their desire to break down musical barriers (even as critics are completely and unfairly unforgiving to them for it) is at an all time high. It still doesn’t change the fact that the music never really becomes hard enough to satisfy the rockers, and certainly never chills out enough to appease the electronic constituency. It has one foot on both sides but doesn’t really belong to anything.
Come what may, I think the French duo will land on their feet when all is settled. Whether you’re just not ready for electronic rock at this magnitude or if you’re yearning for the more genre-pleasing †, an album like this is always important. If you’re someone without ties to any specific band or genre and are just a committed supporter of music, then I really think there is something for you to appreciate here. Whether it’s the computerized AC/DC sounding “Newlands,” the overt homage to Queen, “Brianvision,” or just the sheer fortitude it took to make this album, I’m sure you won’t regret it.