Well, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
While injecting prog-rock instrumentation into electronic dance music (Justice specializes in house) isn’t entirely novel, it’s definitely better when Kanye West cuts it, screws it, then raps over it, as he did on last year’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
Incorporating prog meant that “AVD” had a lot of turntable potential, especially considering the acrobatics performed on “†” (check “Let There Be Light” to see what I mean). Too bad Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay decided to revisit their Metallica cover-band days, thereby creating some serious problems, the chief one being that it’s simply not as fun or danceable as their debut. Let’s compare.
Bold and aggressive, “†” opened with the orchestra-styled “Genesis,” a track that drew the listener in with its careful pacing, sonic drops and highs, and most importantly, a rigid, dirty house beat that, between the intro and the outro, plowed right through the audience and settled itself down in the middle of the dance floor. With “AVD”’s Horsepower,” we have an intro driven by guitar chops and a considerably less dynamic beat, ostensibly to show off the splotchy instrumentation. It gives way into “Civilzation,” the first single, which relies too heavily on the repetition of spacey, anthemic words (“Beating of a million drums / The fire of a million guns / The mother of a million sons / Civilization”) without creating any sort of dramatic tension.
It just sounds like rote rock music, especially when you compare it with that always-buzzing discordant synthesizer sound that broke against more pleasant sonic textures all over “†,” especially on standouts “Waters of Nazareth” and “Phantom.” It was the album’s hallmark sound, but with “AVD,” it’s nowhere to be found, replaced by half-baked concept-album lyrics and stagnating orchestral disco.
Then comes “Ohio,” a total momentum killer, in place of “†”’s dirty, dirty builder-upper “Let There Be Light.” “On’n’On” plods along kinda like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” but without the hypnotic desert lyrics and Robert Plant’s mournful wailing, it just falls on its face, flatlining with a mid-song flute solo. Yes, a flute solo. On an Ed Banger record.
“New Lands” is a basically a slowed-down “Won’t Get Fooled Again” rip-off and closer “Audio, Video, Disco” doesn’t deliver, either. It’s more of the boring same with a static beat, airy singing and a snooze-worthy breakdown.
It sounds to me as if the guys set their sights too high, like they’re stocking up on gigantic anthems to head out on a tour to outdo Daft Punk’s historic 2006-2007 campaign. My advice: Ditch the guitars and get back to the turntables, boys. And grab some catchy samples and record a sequel to “D.A.N.C.E.” while you’re at it.