Justice – [CD & DVD]

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Okay, first things first. The CD:

I’m biased. I’ve seen Justice perform their Cross live show twice, I loved their album, and I have thousands of dollars of stock in crunchy basslines. So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that sometimes I kiss this CD when no one’s looking. For the uninformed, Justice are a duo of French electronic musicians who took the club-destroyer aspects of their countrymen Daft Punk, blended it with the funky pop sound-palette of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, cranked up the bass and threw it into a pair of skinny jeans. Alright, I know most of you out there know all this and it probably seems silly to explain Justice, but recently a friend admitted he had no idea who they were and now I’m questioning everything I thought I knew. Seriously, their wikipedia page has a higher pagerank than the concept of Justice. Get on board, folks.

All hip-nocentrism aside, this album—a recording of Justice’s gig in San Francisco earlier this year—may seem like an excuse to grab some holiday sales without much effort. “After all,” the unenlightened might say, “they don’t play live instruments. It might as well be a re-release of the original album with crowd noise dubbed over!” Well, reader, you’d be sooo wrong. I mean, first, who says that a midi controller (even one that gets unplugged during a performance in an embarrassing photo) or a laptop isn’t a viable musical instrument? And secondly, the live performance bears only a passing resemblance to the live album, with remixes and mashed samples littering an already thoroughly re-imagined cross-section of Cross selections. Probably the liveliest section was the “We Are Your Friends” sing-along, wherein the guys provided the first word of each line and all of the crowd feverishly chanted the rest. Well, all of the crowd except for one person: Kanye West was swearing and screaming that the crowd should’ve been chanting his song “Touch The Sky” (snap!).

I was trying to think of whom I would recommend this record too, and I can’t really say for sure. Justice fans would be the obvious choice, as well as fans of electronic music. But there’s something about the live format that disqualifies this as a party record or a “driving to work” mix. It makes me wish Justice had just sliced out the crowd on a separate version, since some of the material here dwarfs its source. Take, for instance, the piece d’resistance: the stunningly bombastic remix of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” that closes out the encore. Had that been released on the CD as a remix, you wouldn’t be able to go to a club or flip on a radio and not be flattened by its ubiquitously awesome power. But the crowd screams a bunch and the recording’s a bit fuzzy, so its more of a “Hey, friend who digs Justice, have you heard that Metallica sample? Oh you have, alright. Let’s go buy something else.”

The DVD: wherein I invalidate my previous non-recommendation.

The A Cross The Universe documentary is phenomenal. It will make you fear Justice, love Justice, and definitely want to hang out with them on their tour bus. Beginning with the ominously low voice of their bus driver, a gentle soul with touches of Sam Elliott circa Lebowski and a prodigiously bass speaking voice. Motherfucker just sounds like a Justice song. Over the course of the thing, we meet the cast: The gun-crazy tour manager, whose penchant for firearms is only dwarfed by his shrewd management and absolute devotion to his job; Busy P, the loveably goofy label owner who seems to inspire party all around him; and the boys. Let’s just give a whole paragraph to the two guys of Justice.

First, there is Xavier. Xavier de Rosnay is made up to look like the sensible savant of the two; he appears to have mastered every instrument, he loves diving into the crowds at shows, and he even plays a show after severely cutting his hand (this happened after using a liquor bottle to down an assaulting drunk). He seems to love America and everything it stands for, downing way too much Red Bull and singing what a native French-speaker hears of “Under The Bridge” to Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis (much to Kiedis’ hilarious confusion). He also orders the biggest, meatiest hamburgers possible, and loves spending time with fans. Then there’s Gaspard, who exhibits many more rock star tendencies but does so behind the almost-constant veil of a sweet pair of sunglasses. His English may be a bit weak, but he’s got a killer ‘stache and he’s a shockingly good dancer. At one point he decides to get married to a girl in Vegas, but the morning after he’s disappeared. He also enjoys looking stoic, and can manage to do so while drunk, while lying in a field smoking, or even while doing his laundry with no pants on. It’s obvious that Gaspard heads up the Cool committee in the band.

The DVD really makes this package worth it. It’s strange, it’s endearing, and it’s more than sometimes unsettling. The CD could be considered like a soundtrack, the sort of thing you pop into your car so you can remember all your favorite parts of the movie (everyone knew someone’s mom back in grade school who did this with Disney soundtracks). And while I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this more than Cross, It was definitely a fun watch and a fun listen, ultimately clocking in at two full DVD watches per day and one CD listen in the same day.

Hope your holidays are filled with angry synth leads and infernal bass riffs.


Justice – A Cross The Universe is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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