by Parker Brown
Woman, the long anticipated third studio album from Justice, had the potential to redeem the French electronic music duo for the letdown of their sophomore LP, Audio, Video, Disco. However, the duo consisting of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay failed to live up to that expectation as they opted to take their sound down a new route instead of creating more of what rocketed them to fame back in 2007 with their first album, Cross. Back then, Justice was synonymous with in-your-face bass, experimental sounds, and samples that made the listener just want to D.A.N.C.E. Now, that image of the genre-changing duo that introduced the world to a unique brand of electro house has been replaced with uninspired bass lines and tedious vocals like what’s found on “Love S.O.S.”, (“It’s a love S.O.S. / There’s a love, love, love emergency.”)
Don’t get me wrong – this type of music lends itself to repetition and cheesy lines, but when mixed well, vocals can meld into the rest of a track and become nearly as crucial as a pounding bass line. The problem with Woman isn’t that this vital part is missing; it’s just hidden under overused keys and unnecessary singing. One of the singles, “Randy,” is a perfect example of this. As a church choir gently overtakes the piercing wail of a guitar on the two-minute outro of “Chorus,” the beginning of “Randy” hits you out of nowhere, and I found myself bobbing in sync to the bellowing bass. That was until the high-pitched vocals and violin pierced through what hope that song had and left me desperately trying to focus in on that low end over the next six minutes.
As “Randy” fades into “Heavy Metal”, a dark church organ sets the backdrop for another one of their elaborate song structures, and we’re reminded of another reason why Justice, despite their flaws, continues to do such a great job of differentiating themselves from the other artists in the electronic music scene. The unique infusion of sacred elements into relentless disco is something all their own and present from the beginning of Woman. The first track, “Safe and Sound,” welcomes us once again into the world of Justice with a choir of angelic voices who, at the snap of a finger, are replaced by the most funky bass line of the whole album. Only when their rich voices come back does it becomes obvious that these two concepts are perfect with one another.
It’s clear that Justice took a departure from both vibes they’ve put out in the past, but after listening to this album I still am left with that familiar disappointed feeling I had after Audio, Video, Disco. Back in 2007, Justice successfully carved out their own niche and inspired everyone with ProTools and a mixer to try their hand at making beats that could get a dance floor moving. While there are those rousing elements in Woman, they’re buried deep within overly romanticized vocals and simply aren’t fleshed out to their full potential. When it comes down to it, I want Justice’s music to be as daunting as the cross that looms over each one of their albums, but after these last two albums I feel that reverence slowly fading.
Listen to Woman here: