Django Django, ‘Django Django’ – Album Review
The self-titled debut album by Django Django made a huge splash in the U.K., garnering a Mercury Prize nomination and an armful of glowing reviews. Now, months later, the album arrives on American shores. But is this Edinburgh band the Next Big Thing?
Not quite. Django Django nails an aesthetic, but they do little to expand on it. This makes for a fit of science fiction: We have here an album as inventive as it is monotonous.
Perhaps that's a little harsh. Given its own space, nearly every track is aesthetically interesting -- it’s hard to go wrong with the combination of Western twang, African drums and British New Wave -- but after 13 tracks with the same texture, you get the feeling that the band is flogging a once glorious, now thoroughly dead cybertronic horse.
For the sake of argument, let’s consider these songs as if you were to experience them as charming individual tracks rather than pieces of a tiresome aggregate. The introduction fizzles and boops and promises multi-harmonic adventure, leading into, as you’d hope, one of the albums standout tracks, ‘Hail Bop' -- four minutes of pitch-perfect psychedelic pop that sounds like the Zombies on acid. If one had to place Django Django in the musical landscape, the Scotsmen would take up residence somewhere between Tame Impala and Vampire Weekend. This is a good thing.
The third track has a head-nodding rhythm that makes for a sound similar to that of those darling Foals. Pushed along by energetic handclaps and robotic cheers, the song features the joyously pessimistic chorus: “Once again, disaster's in the end, it's like a default.” This, too, is a good thing.
The most memorable track may be ‘Firewater,’ one of the first entries into the restrained ramshackle lycanthropic drinking-song tradition. Here, the mates (that’s British for “dudes”) sing softly and clearly of some very trippy experiences. (Sample lyric: “Howl at the moonlight, squint at the sun, firewater in the belly, look at what we've become.”) It's like Phil Spector produced a pop album for Hunter S Thompson, though these quiet ballads best showcase the band's charms. ‘Love’s Dart’ evokes the slow, building tension of those lovely, wandering LCD Soundsystem tracks, provided you switch James Murphy’s American eccentricities for Scottish idiosyncrasies. All good things.
What’s not good is that the sci-fi Western thing gets really tired by the end. ‘Zumm Zumm’ purports to be a dance track but falls flat. ‘Wor’ would need to be altered before it could be called a proper alternate-reality protest song. ‘Skies Over Cairo’ is predictable to the point of parody. ‘Silver Rays,’ which wants to be the memorable closer, feels like a rehash of the first three tracks.
The Mercury Prize nomination isn't surprising. What is surprising is that Django Django didn't do a little more with their gifts.