Midnight Juggernauts: The Crystal Axis

RIYL: Future Sound of London, Flaming Lips, Air

After an all-too-brief stay at Astralwerks, where they dropped one of 2008’s finest with their dizzying alt-dance debut Dystopia, Australia’s Midnight Juggernauts return from the desert – or whatever planet houses their recording studio – with The Crystal Axis, currently available in the States as an iTunes exclusive but should see the light of day on CD in September. The band’s philosophy has not changed between albums, though the approach this time around is a bit different. Kicking the four-on-the-floor Daft Punk beats to the curb, The Crystal Axis downplays the Gothic vibe of Dystopia in favor of some technicolor psychedelia. “This New Technology” reimagines Love & Rockets as an electronic act, down to singer Vincent Vendetta’s Daniel Ash-like breathy vocal. Then, just to be perverse, they finish the track with a Moog-kissed breakdown that Air would have killed for circa Moon Safari. “The Great Beyond” has a great honest-to-goodness jam in the outro (always nice to see synth-driven bands put musicianship first), but the album’s clear highlight is “Lara Versus the Savage Pack,” a driving pop track with an explosive finale that will send the club kids climbing up the walls.

The production isn’t as clean as it was on Dystopia (they paid for this one themselves, which might explain why they stopped trying to sound like Daft Punk), and the songs overall are a bit more challenging than instantly accessible Dystopia tracks like “Road to Recovery” and “Into the Galaxy.” But that’s part of growing up, isn’t it? Eventually you’re on your own, and you can’t afford to do the same stuff you could when you still lived with your parents. Think of The Crystal Axis as the Midnight Juggernauts’ first apartment out of school; even the most talented people live in pretty dingy places when they first strike out on their own. It will not be long before the band’s budget catches back up with their talent. (Siberia Records 2010)

Midnight Juggernauts MySpace page