Justice’s Cross is an album that defines a movement, a movement that isn’t quite sure of its own identity, but just point to this album and you’ll know what it is. Known alternatively as blog house or nu-Rave, Justice blends heavy guitar riffs with dance beats to create a unique fusion of dance and rock.
When I’m telling someone about the band, I invariably wind up calling them “the next Daft Punk,” and that sums it up pretty well. This album is to 2007 what Daft Punk’s debut, Homework, was to 1997. It’s an instant classic filled with pounding instrumentals and a few crossover pop hits in there for good measure.
I saw Kavinsky DJ at Studio B a few months ago and he opened his set with this album’s first track, “Genesis.” A massive keyboard noise begins the album, backed by timpani, sounding like the first emergence of life from the jungle. It’s a disco 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a killer opening. If I was DJing, I couldn’t think of a better opening track than this. When an infectious, but heavy dance beat, comes in to compliment the riff, Justice is born.
“Let There Be Light” keeps things going with another insistent instrumental riff. While the vocal backed songs are more easily memorable, I’ll often find myself humming one of these instrumental songs, and flipping back through the album to confirm that ah yes, that is Justice’s “Let There Be Light.”
The track quiets into a wonderfully 70s keyboard riff which sets the stage for the album’s monster hit, “D.A.N.C.E.” Like a lot of listeners, I heard this track first and was instantly hooked. At the epicenter of the nu-rave movement, Brooklyn’s Studio B, I’ve heard this track spun every time I’ve been there, first after a show in May, at which point I knew the band had arrived.
It’s a perfect pop concoction, like Daft Punk’s “One More Time,” that could go over with any audience. Drop this at the hippest club and you’ll have people dancing, drop this at your mom’s retirement party and it’ll work just as well. It sounds like a lost Michael Jackson song from the 70s, but with an ediger 00s beat. I can think of few moments in music from this year more satisfying than the initial entrance of the song’s infectious bassline. This is easily the best pop song of the year, one of the best pop songs of all time.
Throughout the album, I love the sound of the keyboards they use. It’s this almost comically 70s tone that just really works in context. We hear that on “Phantom” and “Phantom Part II,” tracks that mix noisy nonsensical vocal riffs with a driving keyboard line. If “D.A.N.C.E.” is a get everyone on the floor track for a DJ, “Phantom” is one you mix a minute of in as transition between two bigger songs. “Phantom Part II” is based around a descending keyboard riff that’s punishingly infectious. “D.A.N.C.E.” excepted, “Part II” is the album’s highlight, a churning mess of synths and bass.
Comparing Justice to Daft Punk is almost inevitable, both are two man DJ teams spinning 70s aping electronica. I actually like this album more than Homework, but it doesn’t quite match up to Human After All, and only occasionally touches the genius of Discovery. Of course, Discovery is as close as anyone’s come to a perfect album. But, as a debut, this album is still an amazing piece of work. It perfectly captures the moment and sound of the late 00s. This is one of the defining albums of 2007, but, like Daft Punk’s work, the retro future flavor will likely make it perpetually relevant to the present.