M83: Junk Review

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M83’s Anthony Gonzalez always has a movie playing in his mind’s eye as he makes music, dripping in synth and gleeful 80s throwback. You could make an inspirational montage set to every song on double-album opus Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. There is no more relentlessly optimistic, cinematic, epic music in modern indie or pop. It’s also a display of earnest belief in the album as an important media platform and form of art, which makes his apparent pessimism here all the more intriguing. It’s called Junk, and all the videos so far look like a 12 year-old spent five minutes on PowerPoint. Opener, Do It, Try It, released last month, sounded just a bit cheap and tacky on first listen. It does burrow deeper into the mind however, precisely because it’s so bloody obnoxious and demands another listen…and another…and another. “A dance on repeat, a trance on a hard beat”; suddenly the penny drops, you can see all the tricks, Gonzalez hammers you over the head with what he’s trying to do and it still gets you. It’s been a while for the King of Synthpop but he’s still making some of the catchiest music around.

Following up with Go!, Gonzalez introduces the world to French singer Mai Lan who is a revelation on this record. Her appearance here and on Laser Gun add some humanity and intimacy to what could otherwise be, to his young audience, distant and self-reflexive 80s homage. Gonzalez elevates Lan’s voice into another ethereal instrument, and her presence elevates these two songs to the top of the pile.

At 55 minutes, it’s a long LP and could certainly afford to lose a couple of tracks. After an exhilarating start, we stumble a little over Walkway Blues and Bibi the Dog, two somewhat lumbering and bloated numbers sorely lacking the hooks that keep M83 albums afloat for their extended runtimes. Susanne Sundfor’s voice and the seductive saccharine sheen of, For the Kids softly returns it to good form, maintained confidently through to the end. Solitude is the album’s gripping centrepiece. Unable to resist his flair for the cinematic, Gonzalez apparently tries his hand at a theme music for a Bond movie set in the rain-soaked neon decadence of some dystopian near future.

The critic’s job is to capture and convey the essence of a piece, which makes it so difficult to escape the movie references in a review of any M83 album. If Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was M83’s Star Wars, Junk is their Blade Runner. Where Outro closes the former with blazing glory and explosions of a planetary scale, Sunday Night 1987 closes the latter with subdued mourning of a forgotten past, all those moments lost in time like tears in rain. As Kanye West continues to tinker with The Life of Pablo on Tidal and Kendrick Lamar puts out a record with no cover, song titles or promotion of any kind, there are many who see the album as a dying art and it seems Anthony Gonzalez is no exception. Music is still coming to terms with the 21st century as both an industry and an art form, and artists are desperately striving to find their place in your line of sight amongst all the other junk and detritus of media and entertainment saturation. Here, M83 provide us with a handful of real gems that certainly don’t deserve to be swiped left.

Alex Boyd

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