Review, Option 1:
I CAN’T REMEMBER ever having listened to any of M83’s prior six albums, but on the evidence before me, I’m certainly not inclined to bust a gut trying.
M83 are a French band that seems to have its origins in electronic programming, but has expanded to take on a variety of performed instrumentation. Combine that with their inclination to explore various themes album-by-album, and it becomes clear that their Gallic dream pop is somewhat influenced by Air.
But where Air has a refined sense of aesthetics and generally spot-on production values, M83 suffers from a few aesthetic blind spots that, on Junk, prove insurmountable.
As if ‘80s nostalgia hadn’t already played itself out, M83 has gone and mined its contemptible depths. Some of these tracks sound like attempts at creating sound-beds or theme tunes for ‘80s sitcoms and rah-rah musicals like Flashdance. It betrays an obsession with all that was reprehensible and bottom-of-the-barrel about the ‘80s, like those awful Jennifer Warnes power ballads.
Listening to Junk, my visual cortex is filled with ‘80s detritus: the raw computer game graphics, the saturated colour of bad VHS recordings of bad American NTSC broadcasts, the canned laughter and appalling haircuts of US sitcoms, pervy Jazzercise programmes vs. the original wave of on-screen preachers demanding your money.
But this description makes nostalgia for the era sound ripe for the picking. It’s not. Who really wants to hear those cheesy synth sounds we all thought had been left behind forever on old tapes? Who needs a terrible ballad that apes a terrible ballad style?
Does it have its moments? Yes, indeed. From time to time, there’s a nicely French lightness of touch and, on ‘Atlantique Sud’, finally some sexy French language. It’s not enough, however, to save a project doomed from the start. GARY STEEL
Review, Option 2:
Junk? Absolutely! GARY STEEL
Music = 2.5/5
Sound = 3/5
[Note: Gary Steel reserves the right to reappraise and alter his star ratings up or down at any time].