No peace, so Justice

Treasure Island Music Festival: Stressing on semiotics and skipping to the bomb-blast beat

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Def deconstructionist detonators

>>Justice for all? Read club snob Marke B.'s response to this essay here.

kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Is it wrong to like Justice as much as you like your iPhone? Can a rocker adore Justice as much as they love AC/DC? What's wrong with the fist-pumping, head-banging reaction the French duo inevitably pull when their pop bombast hits your brainwaves?

There's no denying that the duo of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay go for the drama, even while piling on the classical melodicism, teasing with sonic textural interest and gently provoking with image and concept. In play are the detached yet still loaded signs and symbols of a de-centered, post-nationalist, millennial Europe — where the virtual village square, an imagined common ground, is littered with logos and branding detritus like corporate trademarks (à la their sparkling '80s font-anime fete of a vid for "DNVO") and crosses (a.k.a., the title of Justice's 2007 Ed Banger/Vice/Downtown debut), the latter of which might be read at various points as a crucifix, a space-galleon, or a coffin with wings.

But perhaps that common ground is also the beat — a constant that shifts intriguingly. The beat doesn't possess the primacy one would imagine from an outfit so associated with disco, the so-called nouveau French touch scene, or anything resembling dance music culture, if there was ever such an animal. Instead, Augé and de Rosnay are ciphers: the friendly, unobtrusive absence at the center of Justice, as identifier-free and countenanceless as they are in their Grammy-nominated "D.A.N.C.E" video. These children of Jean Baudrillard dare you to deny their ball-busting bounce, ear-bleed volume, and bloodless hooks, sans even the cartoon/anime-cool, featureless, anti-human "faces" of Daft Punk, or the too-cool-for-school 'tude of, say, Death From Above 1979. As with their recently banned video for "Stress," Justice are tinkering with pop violence, devoid of true gore, a.k.a. passion.

So is it wrong to think of Justice as a user-friendly lil' post-modern contemporary performing unit (CPU), right there along with my favorite multi-tool and time-wasting-toy iPhone — generating content that doesn't burden me with biography, calculated ways of winning my dollar, or even, despite the iconography, religion, politics, or deep thoughts designed to program or convert me. "Justice is music without a message and without politics," de Rosnay told Pitchfork this year. "We don't want to tell people what to think." Regardless of whether I buy 's Christian allusions — "Genesis," "Let There Be Light," "Waters of Nazareth," and even divinity or "DVNO," I believe de Rosnay's, ahem, sincere. Like any tool, the Net, or any number of platforms available online, Justice provides a blank for me to fill in like the animation-bedecked T-shirts of the "D.A.N.C.E." video. "T," here, stands for tabula rasa, ready to be doodled on, graffitied or defaced — even while cheekily offering, for one millisecond, "Internet Killed the Video Stars," this gen's knowing rejoinder to the first video aired on MTV.

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