By Aaron Martin // Despite mixed album reviews, M83 was in stellar form last week playing back-to-back performances at the Roseland.
You may have heard about Junk. Given that M83 made its mark with dreamy synthscapes and reminiscences of youth, the palpable nostalgia in Anthony Gonzalez' newest material is an unsurprising departure, albeit a less palatable one for the mainstream listener. Critics scratched their heads at 'Do It, Try It,' which features a duet between Gonzalez and Mai Lan over early 90's piano house riffs. 'Do It, Try It' pleases the ear but lacks the mesmerizing magnetism of songs such as the overplayed radio favorite, 'Midnight City'. That's not to say there aren't crowd pleasers, such as 'Go!', but Gonzalez has admitted he doesn't want to revisit old material, nor does he feel the need to cater to the masses. Anyone waiting for Gonzalez to record another Hurry Up, We're Dreaming better get used to waiting. In the meantime, M83 is touring with Yacht and still drawing crowds.
Yacht gave an energetic opening performance on Tuesday night, largely thanks to vocalist Claire L. Evans. It was in the fiesty/fun way she undulated to the Jona Bercholt's punchy bassline while belting out 'Psychic City,' or the way she coiled the microphone cord around her arm like a snake during a provocative rendition of 'I Want to F**k You Till I'm Dead'. Between Evans' raucous stage presence and Bercholt's electro-with-a-kick rhythms, Yacht's performance was surprisingly aggressive and a satisfying warm-up to the main event.
Following Yacht and a brief intermission, many a savvy fan (including this story's author) likely wondered how the new stuff would carry over live. Junk is one of those albums that can grow on you over time, if given the time - but the album's still relatively new. So then, how much of Junk is actually on the tour? Spoiler alert: some, but not a lot. Featuring newcomer Kaela Sinclair on keys and vocals, Gonzalez and crew began with 'Reunion' from Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. Next up was 'Do It, Try It', followed by fan favorites 'Steve McQueen', 'We Own the Sky', and of course 'Ok Pal'. Anthony Gonzalez was methodical, intent, intense - a slow burn in contrast to Yacht singer Claire Evans' wild flame. And yet Gonzalez can be unpredictable, as when he surprised the crowd by diving off the stage during an impassioned 'Midnight City' performance. They came back for a three-song encore to the glee of the crowd featuring, notably, an intense live rendition of the instrumental track, 'Colours' and lastly, appropriately, 'Outro' from Hurry Up, We're Dreaming.
So we said we weren't going to mind the naysayers, and we won't. If you're looking for someone to preach at ya why they believe Junk is junk, go read the Pitchfork review. Haven't we seen this drama unfold before? Rolling Stone calling Black Sabbath's Black Sabbath a poor attempt at a Cream album? Robert Christgau attacking Daft Punk's Discovery? As the old adage goes, 'Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.' Music is notoriously subjective. So go ahead and toss Junk in the bargain bin with all those unwanted copies of Madonna's 2003 American Life, if you must. Or chalk Junk up as misunderstood. You never know, it might just grow on you. We're here to tell you that even that (debatable) misstep isn't enough to keep Gonzalez and the gang from packing venues and awing crowds.