M83: Junk | Virgin Media
M83: Junk

M83: JunkAlbum review by Ian Gittins | Rating: ★★★★☆



It’s hard to think of two cities with more diametrically opposed musical sensibilities than Paris and Los Angeles. It is therefore hugely to M83’s credit that this curious, slick yet quirky album effortlessly straddles both.

It also entirely makes sense that M83 founder and driving force Anthony Gonzalez is a Frenchman relocated to LA. The last 15 years have seen him craft six albums of intelligent electronica that have increasingly embraced pop/rock melodicism: his last offering, 2011’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, appeared aimed at arena crowds and scored the band a minor breakthrough.

Nearly five years on, Junk is a subtler, less stridently populist essay in pop-electronica that thrums with wit, intelligence and radio-friendly melodies. Unmistakably Gallic sophisto-pop, it echoes their contemporaries Air in sounding heaven-made for people who used to love going to clubs but are now effectively retired.

That playful, knowing spirit shines through opener Do It, Try It, a subversive jounce of techno-mischief in a Chemical Brothers vein. Go is the kind of tune-savvy ambient reverie that Bonobo has imported to the world’s arenas, while French siren Mai Lan adds a heavily accented croon to the warm, analogue-sounding keyboards of Bibi The Dog.

Yet M83’s trademark Gallic shrug is wrapped in slick, smart LA-style poptimism. Moon Crystal opens up like a 1970s disco-soul throwback and nears Chromeo-style yacht-rock waters. For The Kids is musically slight and features a horrid soft-rock sax break, but is lifted by crystal-voiced Swedish siren and guest star Susannah Sundfør.

M83: Junk

Whenever M83 look poised to drift off into ambient irrelevance, they generally fire back into focus with a killer tune or melody. The Wizard could be incidental music from some minor 1970s French art house flick, but Laser Gun is the kind of light-as-air 1960s-hued cinematic pop that St Etienne render so endearing.

Occasionally the surface sheen is so immaculate that it muffles the song within. The glossy electro-pop of Road Blaster could be a (thankfully) long-lost a-ha B-side; Tension is a gorgeous languid synth-swoon best consumed stoned and blissed-out in a sun-dappled hammock. You can only assume its title is ironic.

Beck puts in a guest turn and is scarcely recognisable amidst the cheese-prone, smooth jazz-funk of Time Wind. The quixotic M83’s seventh smart studio album is many things, but it is most certainly not junk.

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