Friday, May 9, 2008

friday video premiere

Every Friday, we're highlighting a specific video (or two, or three) for your end of week enjoyment.

This Friday's video is Justice's "Stress"

I was kind of surprised to see this video released so soon on the heels of their last single, "DVNO". I was also surprised because the "Stress" video may be the most violent video since the Prodigy's "Smack My B***h Up [warning--this video is extremely not safe for work--NSFW--and you actually have to sign into youtube and verify that you are over 18 in order to watch it (but, I mean, youngsters can just lie about their age, can't they? it seems a bit pointless to ask one to verify age)]"...which was subsequently banned from US airways from being shown before midnight (and, perhaps not surprisingly, the Justice video was shot in the same first-person style as the Prodigy clip)

Before we enter a discourse on the video's meaning, we'd like to remind you (just in case you've been living under a rock) that Justice in one of the planet's hottest bands at the moment. The duo were originally known for their mash-up of Simian's "We Are Your Friends"--which won the award for MTV Europe's 2007 Video of the Year...which Kanye West notoriously rushed the stage for. We covered Kanye's subsequent hiring of So_Me (part of the Ed Banger crew of which Justice are signed to) to direct the "Good Life" video (if you can't beat them, join them, right?).

I called Justice's "D.A.N.C.E." the song of the year last year, and the band keeps rolling on. I thoroughly enjoyed their interview with pitchfork, even if it was awkward thanks to the interviewer (and, for the record, it's Justice, not Eusteece). They're playing all of the big music festivals. Their music was played in an Escalade commercial that debuted during the Super Bowl. Life just doesn't get any better, does it?

Yes, the jackets in the video are pretty BA (they remind me of this Flying Coffin hat), but this is a minor point. With this, "Stress", the band take on the racial tensions in Paris. My only question is: does the music video perpetuate stereotypes of African and Caribbean Frenchmen being violent and part of destructive, angry mobs?

Clearly, the video is not a sarcastic and snarky one--it's not tongue-in-cheek, and it's not funny. Does it further the discussion and make this issue more visible to indie kids worldwide, or does it wrongly vilify disenchanted youth?

Because, honestly, I feel that the band are tapping into a primal urge to destroy out of frustration. When one has no control over his situation--he acts out against his captors (in this case, Paris at large) and tries to literally (and figuratively) destroy it as much as possible to even the playing field.

And, in the above interview, the band play off any sort of musical ties to Christianity. Xavier de Rosnay (the non-mustachioed member of Justice) says that though he is Christian, he sees the cross as a symbol of people coming together--and of the music itself being a marriage of many types of music.

But, one has to wonder if the hooligans wearing jackets adorned with the cross is an attack on the wars of Christianity (or religion at large). Remember, most major religions preach peace, but many times, they have waged wars in order to spread their own version of the gospel (the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition come to mind). Are the band saying that the messages of religion sometimes get skewed and that the followers sometimes lose sight of what they claim to hold true? Or are the band simply using the cross as their brand symbol--wholly devoid of any biblical meaning? Are the boys in the video waging their own crusade against an unholy world which has somehow gone astray? Is Justice trying to distance themselves from the idea that they are a Christitan band?

The video lends itself greatly to interpretation--it makes the viewer step back and ask questions on many levels. Obviously, the first level is the religious one. Second is the international order (the hooligans are primarily minorities--is this symbolic of poorer nations lashing out against stronger ones). The third level of analysis is a national one--racial tension and injustice within national borders. And, lastly, is the individual level--"Do I have the urge to do this myself?".."Does wanting to do this make me a bad person, or does it mean that these urges are perfectly natural?" (you know, "we have seen the monster, and he is us")


You've got to laugh at a band who can laugh at themselves--at 4:50 in the "Stress" video, the band kick in the stereo that is playing their original hit "D.A.N.C.E."--showing that they don't take themselves all that seriously (and that they have a dark side and are not all rainbows, flowers and sunshine).

Who says (electro) rock is dumb?

And one last thing--I'm kind of tired of hearing that Justice are the next Daft Punk. They sound a lot more like the Chemical Brothers than anyone else (I mean, they're more industrial than Daft Punk and are clearly less house than the Daft Punk boys).