POP/ROCK: Justice, "Audio, Video, Disco" (Elektra)
Xavier de Rosnay, half of the Parisian electronic duo Justice, has been telling the press that its second album, "Audio, Video, Disco," is "bedroom music." This might be accurate, if your bedroom has lighting rigs and holds 50,000 dancing people.
Justice, which made its name crusading around the world's dance festivals, lighting a blazing cross onstage while pummeling the crowd of neon fanny-packers with operatic electro-house, returns with a record that sounds like the lush prog fantasia of Yes but manicured by club-hopping control freaks. For every guitar that ventures down a sonic maze in baroquely constructed songs such as "Canon," there are the brutally executed rhythmic stops of the lean showpiece "Civilization." As soon as the music really wanders, the demand for the beat collars it back.
That push-pull creates a tension that makes "Audio, Video, Disco" feel like an exciting exercise on the way to something more developed but not a cohesive or particularly welcoming album. Part of the problem is that the production is so dry that even astronaut food probably has more moisture. Whether it's a club banger or a rock 'n' roll symphony, every song has to sound like it's being freshly delivered to the masses and not freeze-dried. If this is Justice's version of intimate bedroom music, take us back to the warm confines of the festival field.
- MARGARET WAPPLER, LOS ANGELES TIMES
COUNTRY: Toby Keith, "Clancy's Tavern" (Show Dog- Universal)
The title track of Keith's latest celebrates a favorite watering hole and its denizens. Lyrically, it's in the vein of his 2003 hit "I Love This Bar," but the descriptive details and lilting waltz pulse make it thematically and musically more a country cousin of Billy Joel's "Piano Man."
Like the corner bar, this is familiar territory for Keith and his fans, and he doesn't seem to give a whit about stepping out of his comfort zone. That makes this an eminently dependable outing that's strong on solidly crafted, confidently delivered songs but nearly devoid of surprises or revelations about his artistry.
The first single, "Made in America," revisits the brand of patriotism he inherited from his father and has long worn proudly on his red, white and blue sleeve, while "I Need to Hear a Country Song" is a self-reflexive salute to the power of music as salve for emotional wounds.
"Tryin' to Fall in Love" brims with witty couplets and homespun philosophy, a bouncy workout that the Statler Brothers might have recorded four decades ago. "Chill-axin'" yearns for the chance to recharge emotional batteries. Things turn wonderfully loopy in "Red Solo Cup," a love letter to the plastic beverage container.
The highlight of the four bonus live tracks on the deluxe edition is his enthusiastic take on "High Time (You Quit Your Lowdown Ways)," a song Waylon Jennings recorded in the mid-'70s with one of the great opening lines in all of country: "I'm sick and tired of wakin' up sick and tired."
- RANDY LEWIS, LOS ANGELES TIMES