When is a live album not a live album? Woman Worldwide is the follow-up to Woman, the third studio album from the French electronic duo of Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé. They have released recordings of their live set after touring their previous albums but this time they wanted to do something different. They felt that the songs had evolved while playing them on tour, to the extent that they should be re-recorded. They went back into the studio and basically made a record of their live set sans the audience.
It’s a bold approach, and it has really worked. ‘Safe And Sound’ starts the album with a two and a half minute build up that blooms into the type of rousing track we have come to expect from Justice; shimmering synths, swelling strings and a heavenly chorus, over the established bass line. The vocals segue seamlessly into their signature tune, ‘D.A.N.C.E.’, where they are backed by a muted guitar and clean piano chords.
Like their compatriots in Daft Punk, Justice make it impossible to sit still while listening. They tap directly into the primal instinct to dance, be it on a dancefloor or sliding around on the kitchen lino in your socks. Time seems to slow down and before you know it ‘Canon’ is laying down a deadmau5 rhythm. Justice combine limbic euphoria with intellectual satisfaction. They write music like a thesis on evolutionary psychology. If Bob Dylan can win a Nobel prize for his lyrics, then Woman Worldwide forms a good argument for a new kind of award; an acknowledgement of music’s ability to transcend language, and the need for language. Song titles and structures become irrelevant as the tunes sweep you up and carry you aloft through the gaping cosmos. The material world cannot intrude in this space.
Woman Worldwide manages to retain the feel of a live album, but the slick studio polish adds to the vibe, giving an overall feeling akin to the very best live electronic music sets. The duo have thankfully refrained from adding any crowd noise. This album feels like Daft Punk’s Alive or The Chemical Brothers’ Don’t Think. It’s a tremendous display of strength from the band. What could have become a needless retread is, instead, a triumph of ingenuity, instinct, and graft. We’re only missing the light show. That part is left to your imagination but with music of this quality as inspiration, the show in your head is hard to beat.