Once upon a time it took nothing more than a great sound to gain a band a lifetime of attention. Motörhead, AC/DC, Daft Punk – all decorated artists with acclaimed catalogues of music, which in a lot of ways are filled with different versions of the same song.
This isn’t cynicism, but a trait of the artist as a whole; Joseph M.W. Turner spent a lifetime painting landscapes, David Lynch makes surreal films. When we observe the work of actors, we rarely observe the fact that most spend entire careers playing different versions of themselves; Will Smith is Will Smith the Superhero in Hancock, and also Will Smith the Antihero in Suicide Squad. He’s sharp witted, funny, cool and relatable. My point is, there’s a lot to be said for artists who explore styles inconsistent with their back catalogue, and often that exploration comes at the cost of a consistent fanbase.
If Ed Sheeran’s next album sounded like Lou Reed’s Berlin, his fanbase would become divided, so it’s smarter to just focus on being the best version of Ed Sheeran he can be. What I admire most about Django Django is that they mine deep into the middle ground between these two approaches; they always sound different whilst ensuring they’re the best version of Django Django they can be. And they don’t just do it with a great sound, but rather constant artistic evolution across the multiple platforms contemporary music exists within.
They always sound different whilst ensuring they’re the best version of Django Django they can be.
Their new album Marble Skies consists of the same furious Django Django rhythmic drums and bass that has personified the Django sound since their self titled debut LP, and progresses the winding, hypnotic vocals that differentiated album one from follow up Born Under Saturn, but now the big sound on show moves far away from the indie driven and futurist experimental style of their preceding work and instead finds a late-seventies, early-eighties alternative psychedelic sound somewhere between Kraftwerk, Afrika Bambaataa and Miami Vice. It’s a maturation of sound similar to the growth arc that has defined The Horrors, and Django Django have retained a distinct identity whilst also being able to explore their style as artists.
In reviewing the album, Guardian writer Alexis Petridis said that the band were “more alchemists than explorers” but I would argue that they’re closer to both than anything else. There’s a consistent chaos about Marble Skies which can only be found with the maturity of focus. It doesn’t lose its way like Born Under Saturn, nor does it play it safe like the self-titled debut. Be it in performance or on record, in their music videos, album covers, interviews or self criticism; Django Django are constantly exploring and evolving, with the reckless confidence that their audience isn’t invested in the Django sound but instead invested in the Django journey. They’ll either burn out or fade away, but isn’t that the best way to make art? We can’t all be Aretha Franklin, and nobody wants to be Ed Sheeran.