Midnight Juggernauts The Crystal Axis Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

The Melbourne band’s sights are now focused on reaching the stars.

Mike Diver 2010

In 2007, Midnight Juggernauts released their debut album, Dystopia, to a chorus of international indifference. Neither as slickly accessible as Cut Copy nor as incessantly bombastic as The Presents, Australian peers on similar missions to crack the UK market, the trio of Daniel Stricker, Andrew Szekeres and the brilliantly monikered Vincent Vendetta slipped back into the shadows as swiftly as they’d briefly stepped into the spotlight of British scrutiny.

Nevertheless, enough of a mark was left – particularly on those who caught the band live, with such bands as Justice, Klaxons and Holy F*** – for this second long-play collection to position its makers, once again, under the microscope. Pleasingly, substantial progress has been made. Once the group adhered to fairly clichéd indie-dance customs, polished of appearance but hollow of soul; but here they have shifted their sound into a new environment. The dancefloor has been all but ditched, the Melbourne band’s sights focused on reaching the stars.

Song titles have always suggested an interstellar journey for the three-piece – Dystopia featured tracks titled Into the Galaxy and Aurora – and here they take their first significant steps into the unknown. The Great Beyond is the sound of Muse stripped of their fancy pieces of nuts and bolts and sent spiralling into a neighbouring constellation, unashamedly prog-rock of design beneath its squealing synthesisers. Virago successfully walks a tightrope between playful percussion and peculiar, Mighty Boosh-like lyricism, and Dynasty is your latest favourite indie band force-fed a pop-culture diet of Star Trek movies and sci-fi comics. The whole thing could be the soundtrack to a reimagining of Flash Gordon, knowingly kitsch but impressively singular of vision.

What The Crystal Axis lacks, though, is instant-fix appeal – Midnight Juggernauts share more traits here with Cluster than they do the current crossover likes of Crystal Castles, Caribou et al. Tonally this is an expertly crafted collection, consistency paramount, but catchy motifs are conspicuous by their absence. There are sporadic moments of mainstream-courting immediacy – the choruses of Lifeblood Flow and Vital Signs, the vocal hooks of Lara Versus the Savage Pack – but much of this won’t truly connect with the listener until the third or fourth attempt.

Give them chances enough and Midnight Juggernauts can take you somewhere pretty special. But if patience is in short supply these songs are more likely to move you into the next room than a whole new dimension.

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