M83
Junk


2.8
good

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
April 9th, 2016 | 287 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Midnight City Saxophone Solo: The Album

M83 has trafficked in nostalgia – and done it far better than most of their contemporaries – for as long as the project has existed. That Junk pushes this trend to its logical, albeit extreme, conclusion is less surprising than the almost mercenary route the group takes in doing so: by highlighting all the trashy, neon-lit flashpoints and lowest-common-denominator entertainment of the ‘80s that Saturday = Youth skipped in favor of soft-lit romance and John Hughes films. Interviews that M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez gave in the run-up to Junk hinted at the direction he would be taking with his seventh LP, showcasing a downright virulent distaste for the success 2011’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming brought. His comments to Pitchfork that music fans these days “pick certain songs they like – one, two, if you’re lucky – and trash the rest. All else becomes junk,” is clearly directed at ubiquitous single “Midnight City” and its legion of fans. This barely disguised disgust for modern pop music, which he curmudgeonly and vaguely blames on “digital” sounds, is at the heart of Junk. To be sure, an album like Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is an intimidating one to follow, and a monstrous crossover hit like “Midnight City” even more so. The personal and professional struggles Gonzalez experienced after that record are well-catalogued, and in turn Junk feels like a lashing out at this popularity, a deliberate turn inward to the sounds that Gonzalez grew up with. Yet for a guy who lamented in that same interview that it’s “impossible to come up with something new,” Junk only seems to exacerbate the recycling of pop tropes that Gonzalez rails against, an emulation rather than a celebration. In this context, Junk is a deeply cynical record.

For all his get-off-my-lawn philosophizing, don’t let it be said that Gonzalez doesn’t give it his all, no matter how tossed-off he may want these songs to appear. First single “Do It, Try It” is bonkers in all the right ways, a ragtime piano ditty on acid that devolves into theatrical fireworks, 16-bit synths sliding up against a slap bass and hilarious pitch-shifted “woo’s.” It’s propulsive and fun, but that sense of an “organized mess” that Gonzalez intended with the record is lost as things progress. “Go” is more indicative of the rest of Junk, a widescreen funk jam that highlights new vocalist Mai Lan and a number of ‘80s clichés that serve as a prelude for what’s to come. It’s anthemic and thoroughly entertaining, and when Steve Vai makes an appearance with an absolutely ridiculous guitar solo, you can’t help but laugh. Faces haven’t been melted this obnoxiously since Doc was firing up the DeLorean.

Indeed, the first third of Junk is about as well-done an ‘80s pastiche as one can hear today without drowning in cheese, even the criminally dramatic “Walkway Blues” justifying itself with an irresistibly groovy melody. As Junk progresses, however, you get a better sense of why Gonzalez chose to put some goddamn Fry Guys on the cover with a font ripped from old sitcoms. There’s something to be said for exploring the past, but an instrumental like “Moon Crystal" is less an interpretation and more a slavish caricature of something you’d hear while the end credits play on a particularly noxious family values show or, worse, Too Many Cooks. Other ostensible interludes like “The Wizard” and “Tension” call to mind bad public access PSAs or an extended montage where the heroine finally gets the leather jacketed guy she’s been pining over for the past 90 minutes. The hilarious novelty that Vai brings to “Go” is lost sometime around the time Gonzalez ruins the slow burn orchestral bliss of “Solitude” with an insane keytar solo, of all things. It’s the musical equivalent of the end result of the Legend of Lard-Ass pie-eating contest scene in Stand By Me.

Gonzalez himself is more of a ringleader than a frontman here, letting guests like Susanne Sundfor lift up the otherwise treacly soft-rock ballad “For The Kids” or a narcoleptic Beck weigh down the already leaden “Time Wind.” That’s not always to the record’s detriment – Mai Lan’s turns on tracks like “Go” and the bouncy “Laser Gun” add a welcome dimension to M83’s sound. Indeed, Junk functions best as Gonzalez curating the soundtrack of his past, as on an individual basis these songs are usually quite enjoyable, well-crafted and dripping with affection for an era most people would prefer to forget. In that respect, Gonzalez’s statement to Pitchfork tells more than just his disgust with the single-oriented mindset of today’s pop audience. Yet there’s nothing new to be found here, no previously unexplored nook or cranny that M83 turns into something fresh: it’s crate-digging to scratch Gonzalez’s own itch, nothing more. When “Sunday Night 1987” closes things out with abundant horns and an honest-to-God harmonica solo, the line between affection and irony has finally blurred beyond all recognition. It’s schmaltz for the sake of schmaltz, the kind of song that I imagine plays in the world’s saddest shopping mall, stale and suffocating. It feels like a tomb.




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user ratings (233)
Chart.
2.8
good
other reviews of this album
Peter Meister (2.5)
Better off dumped in the space chute....


Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
April 9th 2016


11734 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

well this was fun



"Go" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3YZTYXftzg



"For The Kids" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hs3Wki_uYzQ

RadicalEd
April 9th 2016


8538 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Review is pretty much in line with my first impressions, and it's very, very well written even by your standards.

Digging: Blood Cultures - Happy Birthday

Arcade
Staff Reviewer
April 9th 2016


8439 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

some of this is fun but it's too abstract and ridiculous to be as listenable as Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

Digging: Future and Young Thug - Super Slimey

brandontaylor
April 9th 2016


575 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

really great review, sums up my thoughts better than i could myself

wtferrothorn
Contributing Reviewer
April 9th 2016


5766 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

More than halfway through this, it's v boring. Laser Gun is nice tho

ShitsofRain
April 9th 2016


8007 Comments


total trash

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 9th 2016


24841 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3 | Sound Off

Damn. Haven't heard this yet but I thought the singles were excellent. Disappointing to see all the negative reviews, hope I feel differently.

Digging: Billy Corgan - Ogilala

Pangea
April 9th 2016


2697 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

excellent review. i pretty much agree although i like it a little bit more

theBoneyKing
April 9th 2016


12325 Comments


Excellent review Rudy!

I haven't listened to M83 before (aside from Midnight City, of course), but this sounds awful so I will definitely not bother with this.

Digging: Destroyer - Kaputt

Tunaboy45
April 9th 2016


15521 Comments


sound pretty boring then

LewisShaw
April 9th 2016


281 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hoping this isn't as bad as everyone's saying

chasehoffman99
April 9th 2016


5 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Y'all hate pop music don't you.

BrushedRed
April 9th 2016


2549 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Well written review though I really like this album a lot

anarchistfish
April 9th 2016


25998 Comments


worst album cover of the year

LotusFlower
April 9th 2016


12002 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i feel like artists should stop naming their albums with words or phrases you can use to insult it.

someguest
April 9th 2016


28614 Comments


As if anyone couldn't tell this was going to be shit from the title and cover.

anarchistfish
April 9th 2016


25998 Comments


I'm gonna name my kid Disabled

someguest
April 9th 2016


28614 Comments


You already hold that title.

faultline25
April 9th 2016


15 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

You must have not seen that Sia album cover.

LotusFlower
April 9th 2016


12002 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

2016 is a tough competition for awful album covers between this is acting, life of pablo, unruly mess, and this.



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