Album Review: “Django Django” by Django DjangoBlog — By Josh Kimmel on November 15, 2012 at 5:09 am
I cannot remember the last time I loved an album the very first time I listened to it. Scottish foursome Django Django’s debut album is summery and sweet, an oxymoronic mix of road tripping and danceable art pop. If you had told me that I was going to like a psychedelic album blending elements of dubstep, surf guitar, tribal rhythms, and strangely 1960s vocals, I would have laughed scoffingly in your face.
I would have been wrong.
I often think electronica suffers a distinct lack of the pop elements that make for good and memorable hooks. This is why these acts come and go and produce quality music that people like, but rarely create something popular and memorable on the scale of a Fatboy Slim hit.
That said, Django Django is on the right track, because a lot of these are very memorable songs. The electronic elements act as atmosphere and cohesion, but don’t define any one song entirely. Django Django is at core creating pop songs with choruses and bridges and hooks, but wrapped in a veneer of electronica. If “Going Up the Country”-era Canned Heat had abandoned the blues at some point in favor of London-influenced dub, and then subsequently hired Beck to produce their album, they might approach a sound similar to Django Django.
The band is undoubtedly influenced by folk music and country sounds, and they return to those elements incongruously throughout the album. Tracks like “Firewater” and “Hand of Man” feature ‘60s-inspired vocals and folk guitar. “Default” is an electronica song with a Duane Eddy-esque guitar riff, and “WOR” has a jangly surf sound underriding most of the track. “Life’s a Beach” starts as a surf song but then incorporates a haunted house organ in the middle. And somehow it all works together well.
I do not want to give the impression, however, that this is a band that does not do electronica well. Blips and beeps abound. “Default” and “Hail Bop” channel that London dubstep sound. “Skies over Cairo” sounds like the Pet Shop Boys covering the soundtrack to a movie about Sherazade. “Waves” and “Zumm Zumm” are almost entirely electronic, but still have catchy, singable melodies. “Zumm Zumm” is especially playful, like a carnival or a techno calliope from some strange, futuristic merry-go-round.
Lyrically, the album is a cornucopia of themes. No one would call this a deep album, but since when does pop require depth? “Default” seems vaguely revolutionary. “Firewater” is a drinking song. “WOR” leads off with an air raid siren and I could not help but think of it as a modern day meditation on the London blitz or the nuclear fears of the cold war.
Django Django is everywhere at once, a diverse stew of music both cheery and manic. How can a band sound totally unique, totally cohesive, and like they played 52-card-pickup with their record collection when making their album? You are guaranteed to move your feet. This is an ambitious and exciting debut record and undoubtedly one of the more memorable sounds of 2012.