If you’re going to wear your influences on your sleeves, you should still be able to roll them up to be able to flex your own creative output. Crafting an original sound takes time for musicians. For some it never happens, and for others it takes a few albums to really come into their own.
French House duo Justice, however, seems to be the antithesis to this idea.
Instead of approaching a more unique sound with each successive album, Justice seems to become more and more distant with the pioneering sound they developed on their debut album, Cross. This regression is made ever more evident by their newest album, Woman.
Cross was a haunting and brooding dance experience unlike any other. It felt like a disco party had broken out in the wake of an exorcism, with grooves that stuck in your head like demonic possession. The influence from Daft Punk, their mentors and tour members at the time, was there. But whereas Daft Punk was glitzy and glamorous, Justice was abrasive and intense, like some illicit form of house music that you could only obtain in back alleys.
With each album that followed, Justice seemed to lose the intensity that made their music so engaging in the first place, and with Woman, it seems to be all but lost. This in itself would be fine if the sound they used to replace the Cross sound with was interesting, but that is far from the reality.
Woman pursues a Disco sound that comes off like louder, yet emptier, outlines of songs off of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. The beats and melodies feel generalized and worn out. On songs like “Fire,” the retro synth lines sound like the product of a new Mac owner throwing prepackaged loops together on GarageBand for the first time.
There are a few tracks on Woman that still retain some remanence of the energy that Cross brought. Songs like “Chorus” and “Heavy Metal” still bring the heavy drones and punching bass lines that carried Cross, but they still feel like lesser versions of what was.
Another element that puts distance between Woman and Justice is the use of vocals. Justice has utilized some vocals in the past, notably on their breakout hit “D.A.N.C.E,” but never as prolifically as they do on Woman.
The vocals, simply put, are terrible. They often become ear worms because of how annoying they are rather than the presence of any redeeming melodic quality.
The lyrics themselves read like a middle schoolers margin scribbles. On “Fire,” the ear piercing falsettos deliver the lines “Lovers need no reason/Lovers need no season,” and on “Stop” they deliver the line “Remember all the nights and days we spent together/It’s so easy to forget and surrender.”
It’s unreasonable to expect an artist to recreate their first album over and over, but it is reasonable to want an artist to grow in a way that expands upon their sound rather diluting it. On Justice’s latest attempt, the latter seems to be the prevailing case.