Max Freeman-Mills gives Justice’s Access all Arenas 4 stars
Despite Daft Punk’s indubitable status as the world’s premier French electronic-music power-duo, Justice, comprising Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé, have in recent years been impressing with their own brand of heavy yet danceable electronic beats. Their 2007 debut “†” was a critical hit and commercial success, with the 2012 follow up Audio Video Disco only failing to repeat the trick by a short distance.
Come 2013, and the becalmed, leather-clad Frenchmen have released another live album, Access All Arenas, recorded in Nimes last year, to give those who haven’t seen them live the updated set list, and those who have a superb reminder of how excellent the shows are. Early criticism has focussed on AAA’s supposed re-issuing of mixes from the previous tour and album, but only a miser would fail to find new value in the LP. The details of almost every returning track have changed subtly or overtly, with many given entirely new spins by the second album’s material, as well as the numerous remixes from their EPs being appropriately used where they fit a live situation better – “Phantom Part II” is quite simply a new beast in the live setting. Justice know what material to use most often, and as such their breakthrough hit “We Are Your Friends” acts as a kind of backbone for the set, repeatedly working its way into songs and giving the delirious crowd an audible cue to chant along – something the recording is keen to allow listeners to appreciate. The crowd-noise is carefully managed, never overriding the music itself, and at times serving to transport the listener brilliantly – the nearly 90 second long pause in the pounding “Waters of Nazareth” impresses by actually approximating the suspense triggered by the silence de Rosnay and Augé cut to so abruptly in the show, with “Encore” repeating the trick (though after repeated listens both pauses start to feel unnecessary).
JThe finale of “On’n’On” manages to transcend any of the band’s previous uses of “We Are Your Friends”, and the pairing of “Civilisation” and “Newjack” feels like it was intended from the before the songs were released, years apart. The pair can’t resist bringing in some outside samples, but where before AC/DC featured somewhat jarringly, this time the use of the same variation of their track in “D.A.N.C.E.” as Jay Z used in his hit “On To The Next One” provides freshness and reverence without oddity.
Ultimately, the allure of Access All Arenas will depend on a number of factors; if you have any interest at all in seeing Justice live, or have done so, it is a complete pleasure, providing fresh looks at the best of the band’s tunes. For cultural zeitgeist, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories is almost certain to be the more essential purchase, judging by the success of “Get Lucky”. However, for the Justice fan of any commitment, AAA is a superb live album, likely to become the default choice for listening to any of the songs featured on the set-list.