Throughout the mid 2000’s, M83 rode a wave of melodramatic Perks of Being a Wallflower-esque emotion in songs like “Midnight City” and “We Own the Sky” that made everyone who heard it want to declare, “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite,” at the top of their lungs.
Junk is a different animal. The cover art features two aliens that look straight out of the show Teletubbies. The album looks like something The Wiggles might produce if they were tripping acid.
“Do It, Try It” did not ease my fears. “Do It, Try It” is a piano driven electronic song in which Anthony Gonzalez, the sole member of M83, encourages his audience to “do it, try it” in eerie, pitch-shifted vocals. The turns out to be a musical masterpiece hiding in disguise as a children’s song. The first song sets a tone for the whole album, showing us that colorful, cheesy music doesn’t have to be bad.
The two songs that follow “Do It, Try It” create a one-two-three punch full of poppy, catchy choruses. “Go!” is everything a soaring 80’s chorus should be from the vocal effects to the marching guitars behind the singing. The song sounds like M83’s tribute to Daft Punk’s unlikely hit “Get Lucky.”
The album then moves on to the smooth “Walkway Blues”—M83 is channeling their inner Tame Impala. The song perfectly blends 80’s pop with psych rock, and the results are beautiful.
It is easy for albums that wear their influence on their sleeves to sound derivative, but Gonzalez avoids this by not taking himself too seriously. This can be seen in both the cover art and the music. While Gonzalez’ commitment to fun is mostly good, it can also create some cringeworthy moments. The song “Bibi the Dog” is disjointed, featuring an annoying French monologue in the verses and some slightly cringeworthy vocal effects on the chorus. This is the low point of the album, and it isn’t even that bad.
At times, Junk takes itself a bit more seriously, like on the song “For the Kids,” a piano ballad with some Kenny G saxophone and strings in the background that unfortunately features some Sixth Sense child whispering.
“Solitude,” the next song on the album, sounds like M83’s attempt at a James Bond theme, and it is incredible. At first, the song is straightforward, featuring mostly cello and piano. The song features soaring strings that swell at the end of the song to create a moment that you can’t help dropping everything in order to listen. The song is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful songs M83 has ever created despite the schmaltziness of sounding like a James Bond theme song.
The second half of the album is just as good with the bouncy “Laser Gun” and the absolute banger, “Road Blaster,” which returns to the horns theme with a great sax riff. Up to this point in the album, the various guests M83 brought on have been relatively unknown, but this changes with the song “Time Wind” featuring Beck. The song sounds like Morning Phase if it was an 80’s pop album.
Junk is a flawed album that sees M83 embark on new territory, but it is fun, and catch and devoid of any hint of snobbery. Junk makes you feel like a kid again in the best way possible. So go listen. Do it, try it.