Happiness

Album of the week : Django Django - Django Django

Django Django, so good they named themselves twice - then twice again, with this self-titled debut - have been in self imposed exile for years now, playing the waiting game after releasing their double A-side ‘Love’s Dart’/'Storm’ back in 2009

A dangerous tactic, perhaps, but it seems to have paid off.  The artwork for the Edinburgh-via-London band’s eponymous debut perfectly sums up the record’s basic contrast: the clash of the dustbowl against some futuristic, swirling alien presence.  If The Beach Boys are the ultimate soundtrack to the summer, their sunny harmonies just begging to be heard while driving to the sand, the windows and roof rolled down. Django Django’s harmonic stylings, on the other hand, would be better suited for cruising in a convertible through space itself (if only such a thing were possible). Transporting the beachy vibe into the future is just one facet of the madcap universe this quartet have constructed on their debut

Prairie guitars with heavy-thumbed top strings sidestep and shuffle around chirruping synthesizers, sonar-shaky womps, and krautrock plains make them sound like The Beach Boys meet Orchestral Manoeuvres meet Kraftwerk! One of the joys of Django Django is that even though it’s rendered in two basic colours- natural and synthetic- the scenarios it conjures are significantly more multifaceted

Drummer and bandleader David Maclean is the brother of The Beta Band’s John Maclean, and like The Beta Band before them, Django Django draw from a disparate array of influences throughout popular music. Much like his brother’s band, the sonic experiments of David Maclean’s work yield surprisingly coherent results

Once beyond the appropriately named ‘Introduction’ , the hypnotic psych-thriller ‘Hail Bop’ is a hot mess of tribal rhythms, swirling synth gurgles, and surf rock vocals. It introduces the strange guitar work that never lets go throughout the album. It’s sparse, often overshadowed, but subtly propels the album forward. There’s very little done to it, save a bit of reverb or delay. No distortion, no wah. Just strummed electric guitar, played in a propulsive and unusual manner

‘Default’ features it even more prominently, with staccato bursts of untreated guitar. The song is a wickedly neurotic stompbox-powered chant with voices intermittently gargling and hissing in cuckoo clock rhythm. “We just lit the fire and now you want to put it out,” Dave, Vincent, Tommy, and Jimmy chant. “Take one for the team/ You’re a cog in the machine/ It’s like a default.” it all together. They’re always present, no matter what direction the rest of the band wants to go

‘Firewater’ is the first track to go off somewhere else, and it’s a shuffling 12 bar blues song about night of drinking and the impending hangover. It’s got one of the best basslines you’ll hear all year

Django Django’s penchant for rhythm grows even more eclectic on ‘WOR’, as the bluesy foot-stomper tears through whatever passes for the Wild West on Mars, all with a siren-charged urgency. If Quentin Tarantino were ever to direct a spaghetti western/space opera mashup, then WOR would be a perfect soundtrack selection

Despite jangling on too long, the opening of ‘Zumm Zumm’ fizzes and clanks like an ancient fairground attraction, with hyena yaps punctuating oblique exclamations about unexpected, never-before-seen occurrences

That same sense of vivacity can’t be applied to the song that follows it, ‘Hand Of Man’, perhaps the only dud on the album, whose dull country roughage creaks out beneath a numbed appropriation of the melody from the Shins’ New Slang. Thankfully, however, Django Django picks up again with Love’s Dart, a bandy coconut canter which urges that goals- romantic or otherwise- can be more than just a mirage if you keep them firmly in mind

‘Life’s A Beach’ provides a soundtrack for sunshine and surfing, somehow referencing “Going loco doen in Acapulco” while maintaining their dignity!

The unrelenting chanted singing style can make Django Django sound a bit sterile and passionless, building to a brassy sheen that defies the eloquent frustration of a song like ‘Storm’: “You are a storm; you are my little storm/ I watch the wind change to find out where you’ve been blown.” ‘Skies Over Cairo’ gets weirder, the sound of a Saharan-influenced Kraftwerk careering over a huffing rhythm seemingly comprised of samples of recorded water

Django Django are bursting with ideas and an intriguing aesthetic that would suggest that their own goals are very keenly defined- the result of working on this album for over two years, perhaps- with the artwork’s simplicity acting as a red herring to their boundlessly imaginative, considered complexity. That’s Django Django. They’re taking everything they have at their disposal and mixing it all together, creating something undeniably unique and fantastic

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October 26, 2012

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