Justice’s 3rd album, ‘Woman’, is undeniably funky. It tremors and quivers with energy, but sadly sags under the weight of its retro appeal.
We open on a decidedly vintage synth, wobbling like a didgeridoo and layered with almost choral voices. 50 seconds in and ‘Safe and Sound’ bursts into colour. The sound is glossy and shining like the oil slick of the album’s cover, all one could expect from a band described as “Daft Punk with tighter jeans”. Sadly though, the song merely keeps grooving and never quite goes anywhere. This is a problem that plagues the album, with following song ‘Pleasure’, and foolishly titled ‘Alakazam!’ rotating round and round with endless repetition. Perhaps this is all one wants from a dance band, and both songs are unshakably danceable. Yet those that want a little more will surely be disappointed by their willingness to keep the same line on repeat.
The situation is improved on ‘Stop’, a melodic number with a catchy chorus. In fact this is one of the few lyrical highlights of the album which, perhaps rightfully, revolves around Justice’s synth based production. In this sense they play to their strengths. Sonically, there is nothing particularly new here but excellent production values and keen ear for a tune keep the listener interested. The strong anchor in vintage dance music will appeal to many and is not necessarily cause for concern.
At times though the vintage sound is self-parodic. There is undoubtedly an ironic element to the album, particularly audible in ‘Heavy Metal’, which opens with an almost Baroque harpsichord riff, only to be trodden all over by a raucous rhythm section. The rest of the song continues in eccentric fashion, throwing the listener right off the scent. For a band that trades on their danceable musicality, this seems like a misstep.
Moreover the distinctly 80’s style threads through the entire album and is not, in many cases, ironic. This is an album that sags under the weight of its own heritage. Whereas contemporaries Daft Punk have managed to craft a sound that takes these elements and invents something new, Justice seem to be willing to produce carbon copies of music from a bygone age.
‘Woman’ is a good album: it’s energetic, funny and great for dancing. Yet for those that want something a little more challenging, they will be found wanting. Justice fails to innovate with their ingredients and so produce something a little stale. Fun, but boring.