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Reviewed by David Medsker
Jason: What do they sound like?
Me: Daft Punk, Gary Numan, and Pink Floyd. And maybe a touch of Muse.
Jason: Where are they from?
Jason: Figures. American bands never do anything cool like that.
How Zen. American bands really don’t do anything cool like that. They’re really good at making hits, but with the possible exception of Jack White, there is not a whole lot of pioneering going on in these here United States these days. The labels won’t stand for it, you see; there’s too much money to lose in the short run, and the short run is all that matters.
There might be a band somewhere in America just like the Midnight Juggernauts, and heaven help them if there is. The second they mention Daft Punk as an influence, the A&R guy will say, “Oh, you mean that band that doesn’t have a US Top 40 album or single to their name in their 12-year history? You want to be that band? Listen, I’m late for a meeting with Saving Abel, they need help figuring out which hookers and blow will keep them under their per diem. Come back when you’ve given up on your ‘art’ and want to make some money.”
State-of-the-industry ranting aside, the Midnight Juggernauts’ Dystopia is everything Duran Duran’s Red Carpet Massacre should have been, and more. It is four-on-the-floor dance music with both modern muscle and old school alt-rock style. Where Duran Duran sacrificed their identity for the sake of keeping their star in the sky for a few more minutes, the Juggernauts remained nobody’s bitches. This may cost them in terms of chart position, but that doesn’t seem to concern them much. Besides, it’s not as if the pop sellout move helped Duran Duran any. If anything, Red Carpet Massacre may end up doing more damage to their reputation than Thank You and Pop Trash combined.
Dystopia has no less than four instant classics. “Into the Galaxy” is a strange hybrid of David Bowie and Peter Murphy, while “Shadows” melds that Daft Punk low end with the kind of bass line that John Taylor hasn’t played since his Rio days (think “Last Chance on the Stairway”) and a wash of keyboards that recall Air’s Moon Safari. The hypnotic “Tombstone” will appeal to fans of Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole,” but the crown jewel is “Road to Recovery,” which plays like a duet between Daft Punk and the Killers (Sam’s Town-era Killers, that is). Lurking just a notch below these four are the slinky “Twenty Thousand Leagues” and the title track, another song that Air would surely love to call their own.
If there is a weak spot on the album, it’s right at the beginning. Following the brief intro, fittingly titled “Intro,” we get “Ending of an Era,” a flat re-write of “Shadows” that feels like it could have used a few more minutes in the oven. Everything from that point on is rock solid. What on earth is this song even doing here? The album would have been bulletproof had it been discarded.
Dystopia makes a compelling argument for doing your thing, even if your thing is combining a bunch of other people’s things. As long as it’s genuine, it will find an audience (unlike, again, Red Carpet Massacre, which turned off even the most devoted of Duran Duran’s rabid fan base). Look for this album to launch a thousand bands, which is the best compliment you can possibly pay a band.