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Wednesday, Jul 25 2007
If you're the type of person who cobbles together impressions of a band based on press photos, scene reports, and genre-purist grumblings, Justice is nothing short of an eye-throbbing headache. The French duo's gigantic Ozzy crucifixes, Jeff Lynne couture, and greasy rock-dude maneuvers muck up the previously pristine house music movement — just when minimal was starting to take off, must we deal with subtlety-impaired goons who got their start on a label called Ed Banger? But if you're the type of person who judges a band by its music, well ... OK, the group might cause some eye-throbbing headaches there, too.

But so does getting drunk — an impulse that comes from the same place that leads people to listen to groups like Justice: We want to feel giddy, and uninhibited, and maybe somewhat irresponsible. Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay are typically pinned down as French house for the battered-leather-jacket set. Yet their signature sound — jerky funk rhythms, omnipresent angry-hornet rumbles, audiophile-infuriating overcompression — is just as much a knuckle-cracking modification of old-school electro as it is an arena-metal maneuver: Loverboy for b-boys. Guitars and guitar-analogues skew Nile Rodgers when they're not busy aping K.K. Downing, and even if they push the bass to a muddy, snarling, metal-caliber drone, it snaps more like Bootsy than Lemmy.

Not that they're unrecognizable as house music, per se. A handclap-driven Cameo groove underscores the Godzilla-themed bombast of "Genesis"; the two-part "Phantom" turns the score to Dario Argento's horror film Tenebre into a trip through Funkytown; and "Let There Be Light" does more to evoke robot up-rocking in five minutes than the last Daft Punk album did in its entirety. Best of all is "D.A.N.C.E.," which features this year's best Chic tweak and the world's perkiest youth choir riffing off Michael Jackson phrases from "ABC" to "P.Y.T." Best enjoyed loud.

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Nate Patrin


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