Astralwerks poaches another great piece of the international disco-dance revolution with the American release of Midnight Juggernauts’ Dystopia. The Melbourne-born band have been making bigger and bigger noises in their native Australia, first with a pair of EPs in 2005 & 2006, followed by the release last year of their debut full-length, Dystopia. Now that record comes to America, and fits right in with the neo-electronic dance craze that Astralwerks (Air, Chemical Brothers) is at the forefront of.
If anything, Dystopia sounds a little too like other Astralwerks works. Many of its more Francophile tracks, such as single “Road To Recovery”, clearly have the feel of labelmates VHS or Beta (QRO spotlight on), thanks to its strong, driving, disco-dance keys and beats (and tendency to play on a little too long). Even the vocals sometime mimic (though probably unintentionally), as they can get a little parody-high talk-sing, akin to recent Astralwerks signee The B-52s’ (QRO album review) Fred Schneider, like on early track “Into the Galaxy”.
However, Midnight Juggernauts are not just some remix of genre icons Justice (whom they did open for on their North American tour). Partly, it’s the way they make their sound, with only three people – and going more intense live (QRO live review). But it’s mostly that the band covers a lot of ground on Dystopia – so yes, some of it is going to overlap with others, but a lot won’t.
Some pieces leaven these kinds of elements in, like the monotones of “Ending of an Era” and “Dystopia”; the title track has a sly, driving nature that wraps its way around the listener’s ears (it also gets a “Turkish Prison Remix”, tacked on at the end, for the American release). There is New Wave-style deep vocals laid over the uplifting disco-daybreak of “Twenty Thousand Leagues”, and there’s a tongue-in-cheek press to the airy “So Many Frequencies”. Other tracks go much further, like the grand, sad emotion of “Worlds Converged”, or the slow atmosphere of “Aurora”. Then there are the two slight instrumentals, the sub-minute-long opener “Intro” and the barely-over-a-minute-long middle bridge “Scorpius”.
But what’s important is that, whatever they’re doing, Midnight Juggernauts do it well. The high and effective disco-dance of “Shadows” near the start of the record, and single-worthy expansive disco-tech of “Tombstone” near the end, would both stand tall on any record, any continent. Admittedly, both were also borrowed from the band’s 2006 EP, Secrets of the Universe, but perhaps the strongest song on Dystopia is the all-new “Nine Lives”, which combines the disco-dance of “Shadows” and others to pseudo-eighties New Wave, making a true original.
Having just finished up their first North American headlining tour to rave reviews, Midnight Juggernauts look set to storm Europe this summer, including a whole host of festivals, and there’s certainly a European air to the band (“David Bowie, if his Berlin Trilogy was a collaboration with Kraftwerk and Faust” – Rolling Stone). But really, it’s the international sound of electronic dance music that’s hitting the States.