By: The Busted Amp Staff
JOSEPH: One of the most innovative projects of the last decade, M83 has dazzled fans with some truly unique albums, from 2003's Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts to 2008's Saturdays = Youth to 2011's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, when M83 announces an album is coming, people stop what they're doing and listen. Coming off the heels of an album which, along with Queens of the Stone Age's 2013 .....Like Clockwork holds the spot for my favorite albums of this decade, I was quite excited for where Anthony Gonzalez was going to take us on his long anticipated follow up. Initially, I was excited. The first single "Do It, Try It" brings us the return of some classic M83 jams, especially the awesome synth line that closes the song. Sure the song has absolutely nothing to offer from a lyrical perspective short of saying, "Do it, try it" over and over again, but as someone who has never really cared much for lyrics that's fine by me. The second single, "Go!" featuring Mai Lan, suffered from the same problems, but again the amazing instrumentation (dat sexy guitar solo from Steve Vai though) made this song good enough for me to get past the complete lack of distinguishable vocals. But, once the album came out, I began to realize it's limitations.
But as much as I respect the instrumentation on almost every song and the loving ode to 80's synth pop, Junk suffers from the same problem as most of the synth pop of the 80's: it's superficial. From start to finish, this album feels like excess weight, and the album lacks a surprising amount of coherency, which has always been one of Anthony Gonzalez's fortes. Songs like the instrumental "Moon Crystal" feel very out of place on this album, and sound like nothing more than elevator music. Elevator music? That's what you have for us M83? I mean sure it's groovy elevator music, but I still expect so much more from a man who was able to make a song simply called "Intro" be a breathtaking masterpiece of song. The album shifts into one of the few high-points as the incredible Susanne Sundfør makes an appearance on "For the Kids." This was the only time the entire album that I could easily discern the identity of the vocalist singing. I actually totally missed Beck's role in "Team Wind." How is that possible? How is someone with a voice as identifiable as Beck's able to be so lost that the listener doesn't even know it's him? But, despite all of this.....I freaking love "Solitude." For one six minute song, M83 brings all the elements of his past accomplishments to one great song. Despite the missteps of most of the album, "Solitude" has become one of my personal favorite songs by Anthony Gonzalez, and it's definitely one song that I cannot wait to hear live.
But, obviously, one song is not enough to make an album good. And, as painful as it is for me to say, good Junk is not. Maybe it will grow on me as time goes on. Maybe I will decide that I expected too much from Anthony Gonzalez. But I know he can do better. This album, ultimately, is an interesting one to me because Gonzalez has always been one to not rush his creativity. He has always forgone the traditional "album cycle" and has released material when he feels it is good and ready. And yet....we get this? Did he feel that it had been 5 years since Hurry Up, We're Dreaming so he needed to release a new album? Well, I think he named the album after he listened to it from start to finish, because this title does describe most of the album exceptionally well. Now we have to wait 5 years to hope for another truly M83-esque album. Excuse me while I go cry about something else.
My Number: 4/10
DEREK: When "Do It, Try It" dropped as the lead single from Junk, I wasn't quite sure what to think. On the one hand, the song's vocals are garbled and indiscernible, the synths are muffled and poorly mixed, and the content does not nearly live up to the grandiose scope of anything from Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. On the other hand, there's an adorable puppy on the single cover, so obviously I gave the song a pass and looked forward to what I hoped would be a more substantive rest of the album. Unfortunately, my hopes were not realized and Junk really tries its best to live up to the name.
There are a few highlights on the album. "Go!" is going to be a really fun song live, especially at any festivals where Steve Vai can make a cameo for his ridiculous solo at the end. The problem is the rest of the song. Besides not being able to understand any words in the chorus, the overly excessive countdown leading into the solo is a total waste. Did Anthony Gonzalez really think it was a good idea to count down from eight? "Solitude" is a pretty solid tune. Get it? No? Well, I don't get where Gonzalez was going with this album either.
As Joseph mentioned, there are a decent number of collaborators, but none of them really stand out besides Susanne Sundfør on "For The Kids". MAI LAN and Jordan Lawlor are completely forgettable, and Beck's contribution on "Time Wind" is a joke. Each one of them add nothing to any of the songs, and miss nearly every opportunity to inject life in the lifeless filler. Speaking of filler, not only is that one of the bigger weak spots on Junk, but that was also my biggest complaint from Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. I think it was more pronounced on the latter because it was a double album, but on Junk, there just aren't the really fantastic songs to even it out like there was on Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, and it makes for a boring, uninspired listen for the vast majority of the album.
Unless something shocking happens in the remainder of 2016, this will definitely be on my Most Disappointing Albums list.
My Number: 3/10
Also, can we please talk about how the album cover monsters look like a combination of Cousin It and Grimace from McDonald's?
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.