Such are the times that it almost feels wrong to want to run away from it all, at least briefly, without succumbing to the guilt of not taking things VERY seriously.
This constant expectation that relief is impossible until everyone agrees it’s OK goes against human nature though; as a species, we’re here for a good time and as you can constantly see in our behaviours, definitely not a long one.
Django Django formed as the dust was fully settling over the indie landfill period, members of a loose and not always related cabal that also found their cerebral pop bracketed with Metronomy, Everything Everything and Wild Beasts, their eponymous debut album subsequently nominated for 2012’s Mercury Prize.
That landmark is a little way back in the distance now, but for Glowing In The Dark – their fourth album with 2018’s Marble Skies their last outing – the quartet consciously chose to do two things that usually have a positive impact on anything: firstly to de-clutter and then to approach songwriting from a more open perspective, as bassist Jimmy Dixon has said:
“The lyrics are really about trying to be positive and focusing on the foundations of the things that everyone shares.”
This new way of working is easy to describe but much harder to practice, especially for a band who in the past have layered their music with elemental distractions, but as a prelude the opener Spirals offered some evidence, a bass-driven shot of pure mirrorball indie pop with an insistent chorus of, ‘Crossing the line that divides us/Been here before, this time we’ll make it alright’.
Once in place, this sort of enthusiasm becomes infectious (in a good way), spreading happily into the title-track, a near solo work for the band’s sampler and beat-maker Dave Mclean, with a cosmic vibe about light beams and happiness and more generally tripped out states of consciousness.
As welcome as some escapism obviously is, an entire album of songs about spaceships and celestial joy would’ve been pretty but maybe not worth devoting lots of time to, so teeth when they are sporadically bared are welcome by default.
Headrush focuses on a megalomaniac political leader with ‘fascist tendencies’ (no prizes for guessing whom) while label-mate Charlotte Gainsbourg adds a gorgeous Francophile dimension to the sixties-indebted Waking Up, and The Ark is a woozy techno dreamscape.
Maybe some of this disorientation is there to remind us that happiness is neither easily won nor maintained? These passages are the exception rather than the rule however, and the Django’s sound is still pleasingly also an amalgam which leads to other obvious reference points, such as The Beta Band (The World Will Turn) and Hot Chip (the sweetly countenanced Hold Fast).
Ultimately, whether your natural inclinations are to be half full or half empty, the band’s peak work comes in Kick The Devil Out, on which your personal demons are bounced out of town whilst they purposefully mine some chopped out funky afrobeat as evidence he doesn’t have all the best tunes.
Musicians have reacted in many different ways to the stress and disconnection the last twelve months especially have thrust on them. Some have let it raise their internal temperature, angrily berating the supposed villains.
This hasn’t necessarily made for either good or bad art, but on Glowing In The Dark, Django Django have tried to offer hope instead, even if it seems that we’re looking at future happiness most of the time from down the wrong end of the telescope.
This record at least sounds a little like what it will be like when we get there.