• Music •
Because Music, January 2012
Django Django came to prominence in 2009 with the double A-side single ‘Storm/Love’s Dart’. They followed this with further releases in 2010 and 2011 (“Wor” and the “Waveforms” EP respectively) and now hard on the heels of the “Default” single is their debut album Django Django. To leave a gap of three years between your first single and the album on which it appears might seem rather unusual, but it makes sense for new bands to tour extensively to emphasise their live performances over pushing the retail sales, which is precisely what this UK-based art-school quartet have been doing.
Django Django starts logically enough with ‘Introduction’, which introduces the listener to an instrument which will become familiar by the end of the album, namely what sounds like a very early MIDI synthesiser (such as the Korg-61) with the arpeggiator jammed on. The heavily-reverbed vocal harmonies and percussion skewed towards the tom-toms recall the likes of early Kasabian or possibly ‘Race: In’ from Battles’ album Mirrored, but no sooner has this begun to sink in than the album segues seamlessly into ‘Hail Bop’.
‘Hail Bop’ brings in the chiming guitar of lead singer Vincent Neff, ably backed up with group harmonies and a relentlessly cheerful vibe by the rest of the band. Listeners might appreciate the strong influence of the (now-defunct) critically-acclaimed indie pioneers The Beta Band both on this song and the album more generally, these being a science-fiction lyrical theme, a strong bassline, four-on-the-floor percussion and melancholic reverbed vocals. This is hardly surprising given that there is a family connection between the two bands, though this album’s increasingly quirky style might provide some clues as to why there aren’t many groups mining the musical seam the Beta Band made their own.
The album here glides on into the lead single ‘Default’, which exchanges the psychedelic keyboards heard so far for a simple, stomping beat and a Bo Diddley-styled guitar riff. The heavily-filtered vocals and electronic flourishes sprinkled all over this song help to make it a neat summary of the album in general, so the philistines who are still waiting for something that sounds like Ed Sheeran should probably take the album back for a refund at this point.
The middle third of the album emphasises the keyboards and drums, suggesting the influence of 1960s electronic duo The Silver Apples, particularly on ‘Firewater’ and ‘Waveforms’. The Djangos show that they can hold a tune together mainly on the strength of their vocals in this section, before finally wrapping the album up on a run of four strong songs. Particular credit should go to founding member and percussionist David Maclean, whose simple if punchy drumming is especially effective on ‘Storm’ and the glittering surf-rock of ‘Life’s A Beach’.
In summary, Django Django is a very strong debut from a band content to throw in such wildly different musical components as barbershop harmonies and Dick Dale-styled guitar lines. They might benefit from a bit of discipline when it comes to selecting these ideas, as some of the songs (particularly ‘Zumm Zumm’ and ‘Skies Over Cairo’) are longer than their constituent riffs and hooks can bear. One might also make an argument for not including three-year old singles on an album, since the likelihood is that most of their fans already own them. Where Django Django go next after this album remains an intriguing question – they have probably rejected more ideas to make Django Django than many of their contemporaries even start with.
Will Merrow-Smith works for Oxford University Press and once hung up on Colin Dexter.