Combining electro and prog rock in equal parts could be a recipe for disaster, but Midnight Juggernauts make the concoction go down surprisingly smooth. The latest reinforcements in the current Australian Invasion (which includes Cut Copy, the Presets, Muscles, Van She, and more), Midnight Juggernauts are vaguely reminiscent of an array of different artists yet sound like none of them.
Following up the underground darling Secrets of the Universe -- an EP that won the trio the “Justice’s favorite new band” tag -- Dystopia maintains an upbeat, optimistic disposition while cultivating a dark, ominous undertone. Utilizing just synths, drums, and bass and complemented by falsetto vocals, Midnight Juggernauts manage to achieve a level of sophistication not heard in most of today’s electronic music, and they seem intent on taking us somewhere out of this world with their brand of surreal space disco.
The songwriting is grandiose, expansive, and visionary, littered with both literal and figurative references to the future, astronomy, and the sci-fi genre. The “faraway lands” imagery even extends to titles, as evidenced by songs like “Twenty Thousand Leagues” and “Into the Galaxy.”
It may not grab you immediately, but Dystopia possesses a definite charm that grows more adhesive with each listen. The album is threaded through with a dynamic theatrical element: “Ending of an Era,” all eerie harmonies, retro organs, and thumping rhythms, intrigues and mystifies but makes my head bop. The bouncy, previously released “Shadows,” with its funky bass lines and intergalactic harmonies, showcases the Juggernauts’ lighter side, and the pounding “Road to Recovery” is the standout electro banger for the disco floor.
"Tombstone" is deliciously hypnotic, with its post-apocalyptic synths, stomping rhythm, and vocoder-intoned chorus: “Is it a war zone?/ Is it a freak show?/ Is it a terror dome?/ Is it a radio?/ Is it a firewall?/ Is it a death toll?/ Is it an atom bomb?/ Is it a tombstone?” (The Juggernauts remain coy about what exactly it is.)
With its out-of-this-world visions and lines like “Floating off the edge of the ocean/Out into the galaxy,” Dystopia gives listeners the urge to escape to distant lands. Australia’s sounding pretty sweet right about now.