Music Reviews

Röyksopp Junior

(Astralwerks / Wall Of Sound.) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

If there is anything to be learned from the massive assault that pop culture wages on the average person daily, it is that some cliches, despite their exhaustion, really are true. Books cannot be judged by their covers, chains really are only as strong as their weakest link, and people really are afraid of what they don't understand.

This last one, the fear of the unknown, is a possible reason that Electronica has never fully been embraced in the United States. Not to suggest that Americans can't handle the genre or that our European friends across the Atlantic are more open minded, but it is a fact that electronic music has not made the same splash state-side that it has in other parts of the world. Most Americans have a hard enough time managing the aging monolith of Rock and Roll without having to worry about music made primarily through robots.

Not that anyone can be blamed for staying out of the murky waters of Electronica. One would be hard pressed to find a genre more bogged down with sub-classes and derivative styles pushed past the point of nitpicking and into the realm of straight-jacket insanity. Ambient. Trip-hop. Euro-dance. Electro. Breakbeat. Club. House. Jungle. Drum and bass. Wading through all the divisions of the genre is as daunting as trying to run a mile in thigh-high cement boots.

Thankfully, 2009 has given anyone looking to dip their toes into electronic music a safe and comfortable starting point in Röyksopp's Junior.

After establishing themselves as masters of laid-back, chill techno on their first two records (2001's Melody A.M. and 2005's The Understanding), Junior finds the duo making their most upbeat and active music yet. Though still somewhat grounded in their laid-back beginnings, Junior is about movement and contact instead of scene-setting. Where previous albums made for good background music for heist schemes and fashionable lovemaking, their new record is meant for the dance floor.

While this shift into dance music is not perfect, it provides an excellent sampling for many of Electronica's sub-genres. Any goodwill lost from die hards is made up in the album's accessibility. Junior shifts from Euro-dance (The Girl and the Robot), to thumping grind music (Tricky Tricky), to polished indie pop (Happy Up Here), even taking a   moment to throw back to their trip-hop origins (Röyksopp Forever). Jumping from trend to trend is nothing special, but doing it so well is remarkable.

Established fans may have a problem with the ADHD style of Junior, and the album does raise some questions: is it better to be great at one thing or good several things? If you are a well-versed fan of electronica and you know what you like, then this album might not be for you. By aiming more toward the middle and still maintaining their core aesthetic, Röyksopp has created an album for anyone, not just for tweakers. Any album that can appeal to the masses and still stay authentic deserves a listen. You have nothing to fear but fear itself.