M83 Returns With Moroder/Hammer Synth Hooks on ‘Junk’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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“I wanted to do something that would unsettle the listener in a good way.” Anthony Gonzalez doesn’t care to kowtow to the legions of expectant M83 fans who still have “Midnight City” preserved on their party playlists. Instead, a half-decade after his seminal and intensely popular album, Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, Gonzalez has doubled-down on his 80’s influences with the recently released jaunty and eclectic, Junk.

The name Junk is explained as a commentary on our disposable culture that picks through the pieces of art that appeal to us and disregards the remainder. Gonzalez is obviously jibing at some of his fans and the music media that fixate on his mainstream hits, and disregarding everything else. By bringing in a variety of vocalists and collaborators for Junk, Gonzalez has stepped away from the limelight and, alternatively, reveled in masterminding tracks that possess their own distinct personalities and quirks.

Junk begins with “Do It Try It,” a fractured but aggressive mix of 80’s synth hooks and computerized vocals that launches this organized mess of an album on it’s own distinct path. “Go!” features vocal chanteuse Mai Lan whose silky vocals settle softly across 80’s guitar virtuoso, Stev Vai’s soaring guitar solos.

“Walkway Blues” features an ominous and catchy chorus that grows on you like kudzu, while “Bibi the Dog” features a healthy dollop of French electro. However, tracks like “Moon Crystal”,  “Solitude”, and “The Wizard” are disappointingly aloof and devoid of any engagement.

The album gets back in form with the instructional and undeniably infectious “Laser Gun” that is followed by the best track on the album, “Road Blaster” which is a celebration of saxophones and 80’s romanticism. It all ncludes with a pastiche of eclectic influences. “Atlantique Sud” is a beautiful Francophone duet, while “Time Wind” features a Beck collaboration and the Junk concludes with “Sunday Night 1987” – a wistful and introspective tribute to the late sound technician Julia Brightly.

While there is almost no linearity to Junk and, the album’s flow is virtually nonexistent, this seems to be exactly what Gonzalez intended. The album is certainly not as palatable as previous M83 albums, the highlights on Junk are certainly up there with M83’s best songs. Feel free to pick and choose your favorites from the album and disregard the ‘junk’ that you think falls short, that’s at least what Gonzalez expects you to do.

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