Setting their sights on the ether the second time around makes for a turbulent re-entry.
Three years after the release of their self-titled debut album, the art rockers are back. Their experimental sound seemed the inevitable product of a group of four art school students. Django Django received critical praise across the board and picked up a Mercury Award nomination. It was a piece which flowed with ease from first cowbell scored song to the last and whilst its appeal may have been limited for some, it was never lacking in innovation.
But that’s enough about the past, as timeless as their music might be there’s 13 new songs to pour over. Lead single ‘First Light’ was an exciting prospect for the LP that would follow. It’s an indie dancefloor filler with a steady, pulsating beat underscored by vocal harmonies. Despite its five minute length, it seldom seems to drag. It possesses the same sense of exploration that ‘Love’s Dart’ and ‘Skies Over Cairo’ brought to their debut. This song suggested a mainstreaming of the music on the new album but this certainly isn’t the case. This might sound like encouraging news for fans but opening track ‘Giant’ might make them think twice. It’s a six minute slow burner which attempts to search for adventure but ends up an arduous trek.
Those patient enough to hear this song out will be rewarded with ‘Shake and Tremble’. Planned for release as a single, the creeping chord changes of its intro suggest a Bond theme for the electro-rock generation. It’s an absolute must for fans of Django Django’s ‘Default’ and is a real highlight of the album. It possesses all the urgency which is painfully absent on much of the album. This fades into ‘Found You’ which possesses a wonderful breakdown near its conclusion which echoes The Doors and Temples at their best. ‘Pause Repeat’ is up next, but Stop and Skip would be a more apt title and would constitute a more enjoyable passage into the next song ‘Reflections’. Due for release as the next single, the latter is far more what one might expect from the British four-piece. A steady beat and memorable chorus refrain make for a joyous listen. The addition of saxophone and synth solos into the mix help distinguish this number from the mediocre songs that sandwich it.
‘Beginning to Fade’ seems like strange delve into a Blur-like Britpop form which certainly doesn’t suit their style. The manner that the usual instrumental assortment is stripped down exposes lyrics which are distinctly lacking in substance. From this point onwards come a series of mediocre songs that offer little more than filler material. It’s an odd decision given that the first ten tracks already constitute 45 minutes of music. But whilst Born Under Saturn is far from perfect, it doesn’t get utterly lost in space. ‘Shot Down and ‘High Moon’ are utterly brilliant. The former is a dark, galactic ballad which is at its best when the vocals leave and place the screeching synths and terse snare hits in isolation. Nonetheless, as the song reaches its crescendo the vocals return to create an atmosphere that rivals the Ozone. ‘High Moon’ is one of the band’s greatest numbers so far. Lyrically, the moon is employed as a metaphor as the singer asks, “Have you ever seen this side of me? Will you ever keep me company? Will you ever see the shadow that forms over me?” The chorus will have you simultaneously swaying and tapping your feet and if you’re not left tangled in a pile of limbs you’ll be able to enjoy the peculiar beauty of the song.
The quality of individual tracks like this are enough to save Django Django’s musical return but setting their sights on the ether the second time around makes for a turbulent re-entry.
Born Under Saturn is out on March 5th via Because Music.