Scottish/Irish art rockers usher in the new psychedelic.
“You should never be afraid to make a fool of yourself for art.” Some words of advice there, not from Buster Keaton or Andy Kaufman, but Django Django drummer David Maclean, as spoken in an interview with the Guardian to promote the band’s self-titled debut album. While I’m not sure that this was Mr. Maclean’s intention, advertising the theoretically asinine element to Django Django’s music is the single best way to promote the album -- an addictive, freewheeling adventure in off-the-wall pop.
Amid a racket of bird calls, air raid sirens and coconut shakers, the 13-tracker’s greatest achievement is managing to sound fresh and familiar at the same time. If the Northern Irish/Scottish/English foursome call to mind a giddier version of trip hop pioneers The Beta Band, it’s with very good reason (David is the younger brother of Beta and Aliens keyboard player John Maclean), but they also share vibes, and a record label, Because Music, with new-age experimentalists Justice and Metronomy.
The quartet are probably best known thusfar for ‘Default’, a masterful fling with distortion that rivals Hot Butter’s ‘Pop Corn’ in the catchy stakes, made all the cooler by Vincent Neff’s lethargic, echoey vocals. Even better, the entire album throbs with earthy, tribal-sounding percussion, leaving us to wonder: how can something motorised sound so organic?
It appears it’s all part of the Django Django ideal: to make light-hearted music with serious intent. ‘Skies Over Cairo’ makes camp use of the stereotypical sounds of Egypt and the Middle East, as exploited in countless movies, TV shows and video games. Actually, if anything, Django Django is more a blissed-out trip through the hoots and clicks of popular culture than a dance record. The jungle jabber that opens the record is more Crash Bandicoot than National Geographic, exaggerated enough to be fun, but not so silly that you can’t sit back and enjoy. Elsewhere, they forge disco and kraut-fused pop songs from the clichéd sounds that so often accompany Hollywood takes on surf competitions (‘Life’s A Beach’), hippy love-ins (‘Firewater’) and cowboy shoot-outs (‘Wor’).
Of course, unlike Hollywood, Django Django know how to tell a story. Take ‘Love’s Dart’ for example, a hip-shaking, rattle-snaking tale about a digger who goes searching for fortune during the gold rush, haunted by the memory of a girl with golden hair. What could be more perfectly Chaplain-esque?
That said, Django Django is not a perfect record (not all tracks are blessed with the potency of ‘Default’ or the imagination of ‘Love’s Dart’), but it’s remarkable throughout for its fearlessness. Armed with a talent for blending the farcical with the primal, Django Django have marked themselves out as the primary advancers of psychedelic pop. If ever there was a case for fools rushing in, this record is it.
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