Audio, Video, Disco
(Ed Banger; 2011)
By P.M. Goerner | 8 November 2011
Justice’s new LP, Brian May, Jeff Lynne, Disco, immediately reaches out to grasp the dubious honor of reminding me that through the years (here’s where everything gets all wavy and blurry), hard rock and heavy metal have repeatedly earned themselves the sad opportunity to become some of the most successfully compromised counterculture forms in modern musical history. In a sense it’s been a credit, as any attempt to standardize stands in contrast with the genres’ cultural identities and forces them to evolve to survive. But in straining to pay undue homage to the clichés that were already well-defined by the time George Lucas became a household name, Justice’s new follow-up to their lauded 2007 debut makes it plain to see why those willing to play up to the commercializing standards, or in this case even just the memory of such, aren’t always given second chances to be remembered well.
With the repeated abuse of your finest yesteryear memories now firmly in mind, I offer that Audio, Video, Disco sounds essentially like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra callously interpreting the ELO library, coupled with a bunch of disco edits of proggy metal from a mid-80s Scandinavian troupe with a hilarious Tolkien-derived name and a penchant for turning would-be bombast into theatrical silliness. Trust me: I don’t even have to go into detail about the vague, predictable classical music themes running plainly throughout for that comparison to stick. It’s unfair to say that the formula never works, but there’s just something so absolutely trope-hungry about the proceedings that keeps things from even remotely recalling the freshness of the bursting-at-the-seams fuzz of †, which carved a place for itself by keeping things simple and tongue-in-cheek, as well as by focusing on fierce, amphetamine-sweaty arena rock textures without feeling the need to dig too deeply into genre specifics or get too serious in demonstrating precise nostalgia. That sheer dedication to damaged decibel meters gave † the rebellious personality that Audio, Video, Disco seems all too willing to abandon for the sake of sounds that obviously fit quite agreeably into the background of slo-mo sports footage and the Time Life CD collections hawked on cable between the hours of three and seven AM by wrinkled Englishmen with pirate shirts and Jimmy Page hair.
Strangely though, I feel a little unfair in faulting the duo for trying to demonstrate some kind of melodic depth that † may have been accused of lacking, as its influence has become heavily apparent, as has the need for the group to reveal more of their personality. But to fault a record like † for lacking evidence of melodic pedigree in the first place seems like faulting Black Sabbath for lacking in moral integrity. Sadly, in trying perhaps too hard to move on from the already-ubiquitous sound of their debut and to capture the specifics of their influences, Justice leave off the most appealing aspect of their tunes: the sheer viscera. It’s certainly as though in their need for genre-aping specificity, and in the wake of such strong-willed neighborhood upstarts as SebastiAn, the duo is subconsciously relinquishing their status as Ed Banger & Co.’s champion eardrum assassins and feeling the need to become more transparent. Perhaps rightly so, but at the same time, their unwillingness to offer up any interesting experimentation alongside an obvious scholarly knowledge of genre makes the few high moments of Audio, Video, Disco simply rote recollections of previous successes, and the pervasive low moments an extended exercise in cheesy, overcompressed predictability. Where † crafted sly treasures out of gaudy detritus, single-minded as it may have been, Audio, Video, Disco simply settles for canonizing the forgettable.
Terrifyingly, it is kind of like imagining that one day someone will attempt to remake the Star Wars prequels out of a sincere love, which will finally, painfully demonstrate to me the inevitability of a certain occurrence in everyone’s life: the emergence of a new nostalgic sensibility completely divorced from the realities of actual experience. And until then, I reserve a special hatred for that unknown person which will have to keep me warm in ways that Justice apparently may no longer be able to, because sadly, I’m pretty sure that Audio, Video, Disco won’t likely be inspiring a whole lot of calisthenic head bangin’ anytime soon.