Woman review by Justice

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  • Released: Nov 18, 2016
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 5
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7 Good
  • Users' score: 4.4 (12 votes)
Justice: Woman

Sound — 8
Years before the EDM boom that occurred this decade, many will point to Justice's 2007 debut album, "Cross," as being one of the sparks to help light the fuse for that big electronica movement. The French duo's style of buzzy, modular-driven electro house music had both groove and grit to it that would inspire the sounds of electro house producers like Dada Life and Cazzette, as well as help spur a nu disco movement carried by producers like Madeon and Treasure Fingers.

But in 2011, as EDM was starting to snowball to its peak of popularity, Justice stepped away from their electro house sound in their follow-up album, "Audio, Video, Disco," in favor of working with more instrumental arrangements and vocals. While it wasn't an objectively bad call for the duo to move in a different direction, the album's offering spurred a very polarized response, with many reviling the change in sound.

Despite that sizable amount of listeners dissatisfied with that second album, nearly every Justice fan perked back up when the duo started showing activity again to release a third album, having been five years since "Audio, Video, Disco." In their third album, "Woman," Justice have no intention to make a commitment into rehashing the sound of their first or second album, but take things in stride with some new tricks to offer something more widespread in sound and style. With the first half of the album adamantly evoking a '70s-era dance aesthetic (from the disco-inspired string melodies in "Safe and Sound" and the Giorgio Moroder-style synth melodies in "Alakazam!," to the soulful "Pleasure"), Justice continue to hone the heightened vocal presence that "Audio, Video, Disco" did (see "Stop"), while bringing back the stronger sonic elements from "Cross," like the funky organic bass in "Safe and Sound" and the buzzier analog bass in "Fire."

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By the second half of "Woman," Justice start paying more mind to their synths. "Randy" throbs with electro house energy, the harpsichord lead arpeggios in "Heavy Metal" gives it a distinct Baroque flair on the album, and the stacked synth layering in the '80s synthwave feel of "Chorus" proves to be exceptional. However, the album stumbles in its last steps, and with the penultimate "Love S.O.S." wielding a siren tone that only manages to pester throughout the song, the ending "Close Call" meanders too long in its warm and sunny melodies.

Lyrics — 5
Despite investing more in the vocal aspect of their music in this and their previous album, the lyrics in "Woman" aren't anything all that captivating. With simple and hooky lines in "Safe and Sound" ("Time's up, kick start, keep on track / Flag's out, sit back, safe and sound"), "Pleasure" ("Use imagination / As a destination") and "Love S.O.S." ("It's a love S.O.S. / There's a love, love, love emergency") serving their simple purpose of helping the retro disco/soul emulation of the album even further, the few songs that try to say more either come off as chunkier versions of hooks ("Baby, but all the nights and days we spent together / It's so easy to forget how to surrender / But nothing's ever stopped" in "Fire") or saddle themselves with clichés ("Hold onto what you got and strike while the iron's hot / Put up a fight / Those days are good and gone / Keep up keep on going strong" in "Randy").

Overall Impression — 8
Deliberating upon which aspects from their two previous albums should be used to build album number three, Justice succeed in making "Woman" a next step that avoids being a shameless, crowd-pleasing retread of their former glory in "Cross." But similar to the likes of Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories," a key aspect of Justice's "Woman" is concerned with reviving the spirit of old genres without deviating too much from their classic templates. Justice's synthwave/electro house augmentations may not provide the most bizarrely brilliant mutations to the disco/soul subject matter, but in the interest of pastiche, Justice show that they can color within those lines quite vividly.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I loved the first album, and it took me quite a bit to come to round to their second album, but once I 'got it' I absolutely fell in love with the second album. The focus on using real instruments was super solid and they brought out some music that you just don't get to hear anymore. It was outstanding. For me, the third album is a mesh of the first two full albums, and I love it. That said, the third album does meander a bit. I do feel that some songs, as you said, just go on for too long to the point of being slightly annoying. I did manage to fall for Love SOS though after a few listens. I was a little disappointed with 'heavy metal'. When I saw the track title I was geared up for something mental like 'Stress' or 'On'n'On'. I feel it leans a little too closely to toccata and fugue to be truly stand alone. Other than that I think Justice has produced another album that has some serious roots in the '70s with a modern outlook, and they're still super unique. As a long term fan of Justice, I am more than happy with this album. Hopefully when they do a live release it will live up to A Cross the Universe, as I think the second live album wasn't as strong.
    Basically, a pop record, just like A.V.D., and there's nothing wrong with that, were it not for the existence of Cross. A.V.D. had its highlights, Canon and Helix were seriously awesome. Here, the closest they get to the old sound, is Chorus, but it is watered down quickly into repetitiveness. I might like Safe and Sound over time, it has to be the catchiest and the most musically pleasant piece on this altogether quite disappointing record. Take me back to '07, when the wonderful triad of Justice, Boys Noize and Teenage Bad Girl changed electo forever.