FRANCE: † - Justice
Updated: Mar 8
Electro masters Justice bring darkness to disco in their superb debut album
Looking at the album cover of Justice’s debut album †, one would be forgiven in thinking it might be a metal album. Whilst on the surface that might seem far from the case when one starts what is obviously an electro album, the Parisian duo manage to incorporate elements of the metal genre in a way which is even palatable for a fun-loving ‘disco-head’ like myself. Whilst obvious parallels can be drawn between the pair and their legendary compatriots Daft Punk, one should try to avoid such hack comparisons. That said, if I can gift the gruesome twosome with praise of the highest order, it would be that I truly believe their music could fit seamlessly into Daft Punk’s immense oeuvre.
“Complete espousal of the shadowy side of boogie is needed in order to get on board with this album and enjoy it to the fullest of its potential, in much the same way as metalheads would claim one needs to connect to their inner monster to really enjoy metal.”
Without wishing to brush over the seemingly counter-intuitive suggestion that this funky electronic odyssey is in fact rooted in metal, I shall try to explain my point further. The record is full of slapped basslines, distorted synths and a general in your face demeanour. This isn’t friendly, lovey-disco, this is ‘get your f***ing groove on or I’ll kill you’-disco. The opening beats of the first track Genesis, tell you that they aren’t messing around and they expect you to embrace the darkness of the night. Complete espousal of the shadowy side of boogie is needed in order to get on board with this album and enjoy it to the fullest of its potential, in much the same way as metalheads would claim one needs to connect to their inner monster to really enjoy metal. It is therefore no surprise to learn that the duo started off in Metallica and Nirvana cover bands in their younger years.
This ‘freaky’ warehouse disco style is apparent throughout and almost reminds me of a much more techno-laden version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller or even some of the ominous funk played by the likes of The Buggles. As such, the ‘in your face’ feel of the album, could be quite jarring if you don’t immediately get on board with what the pair are trying to do and are afraid to get behind the bizarre albeit evocative industrial soundscape. Whilst the album is often thunderous in its style, at its core it is playful with the simple mission of attempting to create the ultimate dance party. There are moments of fun and respite that really stick out in the mind.
One such example is the children’s choir who appear on the pop banger D.A.N.C.E, who sound a lot like the Jackson 5 or New Edition in their early years such as on tracks like Candy Girl. This song acts as a reminder as to what the DJs are actually about, particularly as it comes straight after the intense Let There Be Light. Other fun moments appear on the record such as the disco handclaps in DVNO and the innocent vocals of the female rapper encouraging her friends to get "drunk and freaky fried" on Party. These little idiosyncrasies are incredibly memorable as they serve as the light to the darkness of tracks such as the screeching Stress or the snare-heavy Walters of Nazareth, thus creating an immensely textured album in which they finely balance the hard-techno with the bouncy funk.
What’s more, the choice of samples on this album are pretty genius, in that they are for the most part undetectable due to the fact that they use only small snippets to incorporate into their music. The only one I was able to discern before researching the samples used online, and with real difficulty I must admit, was the hook from Prince’s I Wanna Be Your Lover on the opening track. The original song is an obvious dancefloor filler and their subtle inclusion of it, alongside other songs that have a similar power such as a sound effect from In Da Club by 50 Cent makes Genesis my personal favourite on the entire record. Other samples used so imperceptibly are Britney Spears and Madonna’s Me Against the Music which comes in as a relayed sample at the start of D.A.N.C.E and then elements of the same song are also used in Valentine and The Party but they are even less apparent there. The only time in which a direct sample has been used that has not been spliced and edited in such a way that makes it easier to detect is a niche number by funk legends The Brothers Johnson, whose track You Make Me Wanna Wiggle can be heard at the beginning of Newjack.
Overall the album is a phenomenal effort drawing influences from an array of genres that one might not expect to hear on such a record. What I particularly love about † is its versatility in its listening consumption. That is because it can be thought of and listened to as one continuous 48 minute song, or can be a breeding ground for an excellent electro playlist in which individual hits can be plucked out for the dancefloor. What astounds me is that the album was released in 2007, making it so immensely ahead of its time with its original futuristic sound, whilst also paradoxically being incredibly accessible despite its sometime haunting tone.