Justice 2024
Photo: André Chémétoff / biz3

Justice Dance Through the Decades on ‘Hyperdrama’

Parisian dance duo Justice’s first album in eight years might not bottle the same lightning as their debut, but it’s still got enough charge for a wild night out.

Ed Banger / Because Music
26 April 2024

In 2007 and 2008, Justice‘s debut album, Cross, was inescapable. From clubs, festivals, and speakers across the globe, the album was nothing short of ubiquitous. That booming, cinematic monster movie intro at the start of “Genesis” – the opener – announced something momentous: a dance record that would come to define the late 2000s.

Justice’s subsequent albums, spaced out over nearly a decade (Hyperdrama marks their longest gestation yet, though they’ve never exactly churned them out), edged the duo’s sound in new directions. Audio, Video, Disco (2011), with its campy 1970s progressive and hard rock riffage, didn’t so much suffer from ‘difficult second album syndrome’ as crash headfirst through it, while 2016’s Woman was their most unabashed attempt to stamp their mark on disco. Even if neither of them managed to replicate the raw power of Cross, they were both undeniably fun. Audio, Video, Disco, in particular, may be ridiculously over the top, but turn up the volume and switch off your critical faculties, and it’s a blast.

Hyperdrama synthesizes Justice’s club roots with their nostalgic/progressive leanings, perhaps better than any of their other post-Cross releases, though it’s not without its problems—pacing, for one. The album starts strong, with the best four-track run Justice has put out since their debut. Kevin Parker of Tame Impala guests on the opener “Neverender” and “One Night/All Night”, and his spaced-out falsetto with Justice’s pulsing psychedelic beats make for a killer combo. “Afterimage” delivers stadium-sized, club-ready electropop, with Rimon’s soulful vocals laid over a throbbing bassline infused with 1980s synth aesthetics.

Then there’s “Generator”Hyperdrama’s obvious standout. It is a hard-hitting techno banger which, halfway through, pendulum swings to string-laden disco and back again without missing a beat. Justice do this kind of thing better than just about anyone else on the planet, so it’s a pity there’s not just a tiny bit more of that on the rest of the album because beyond its bracing opening third, Hyperdrama starts to feel just a little scattershot.

In terms of the highlights, “Mannequin Love” is a catchy electropop ballad, “Saturnine”, featuring Miguel, delivers a slinky R&B disco vibe reminiscent of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. Meanwhile, “Muscle Memory” wouldn’t sound out of place soundtracking a 1980s Italian horror movie.

But then some moments sap Hyperdrama’s momentum. “Dear Alan” is an ambitious electro smorgasbord but lacks focus. “Moonlight Rendez-vous” is presumably intended as a sonic palate cleanser, but a smooth jazz reimagining of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” seems like a strange way to do it. The jerky electropop of “Explorer”, featuring Conan Mockasin, never gets out of third gear.

What struck me while relistening to Cross after all these years (apart from just how hard every track slaps) was the remarkable cohesion of that album. Justice covered a lot of dance-oriented territory on Cross, but it flows seamlessly with a raw, gritty, sweat-soaked energy and, crucially, never slows down—even when it does.

Hyperdrama, while possibly their best effort since, doesn’t quite capture that same energy, though it does come close. Whereas Cross felt like the essential festival season soundtrack, Hyperdrama is more akin to a messy night out on the tiles with an old friend who’s picked up some new party tricks. Perhaps it won’t be etched into your memory for years to come, but hey, a good night out is a good night out, right?

RATING 7 / 10