juggernauts roll on to the future
If Daft Punk confounded everyone by looking back to electronic dance music’s roots in classic 70s disco, then Melbourne’s Midnight Juggernauts have gone one better and dared to build a bridge between pre and post punk, paving right over what lies below. They’ve gone back to the future by way of an Electric Light Orchestra-powered DeLorean, and in doing so produced some kind of space-postpunk-disco album, or spunkso as the guys in the lab are calling it, which is almost as fantastical and vaguely Soviet as it sounds.
Their journey begins somewhere in a disco fog of mid-70s prog rock, all shiny harmonies, space age sonics and swimming synths, before emerging on the far side, bright eyed and bushy-tailed in late 1978 with some of PIL’s respectful dub basslines and added sequencer spookiness for good measure. It’s almost as if they ignored their doctor’s advice, mixed their medications and woke up two years later on a stranger’s couch, oddly refreshed, and somehow, with shorter hair and cooler trousers.
And not a moment too soon, because as the Noughties wore on a reassessment of post punk saw it emerge as the last most influential of eras until hip hop, with the first spark of punk only providing the jumping-off point that made the late 70s and early 80s such an exhilarating time for cross-bred music. While new bands worthy of the name since the early 2000s have been busily acknowledging this influence, the mid-70s era of disco and the oft-maligned keyboard-heavy progressive rock movement have been largely ignored for not being cool enough. Enter Midnight Juggernauts – not since ELO released the barrelling Discovery deep in new wave 1979 have dance and prog made such cuddly bedfellows. They certainly know their “Don’t Bring Me Down”s from their “Last Train To London”s, and while it would be churlish to limit their references to one symphonic rock album from the late 1970s, it’s fair to say they owe goggle permed Jeff Lynne’s vocal arrangements a fizzy cider or two, just for starters. The post punk part of the equation – bass lines and analogue synth sounds aside – is more about intent than content, but there’s a wistful minor chord feel to the whole thing that is more than reminiscent of much that paved the way from ‘79 on, and most certainly resonates in the way a wonky white funk element came to the fore overnight. That the Juggers are more slickly euphoric with it only adds to the headiness – some of these soaring choruses wouldn’t be out of place in a cosmic gospel choir.
Why these guys aren’t already living in a mansion made of cocaine with Kanye West chained up in their basement I’ll never know, but that’s the way of the music charts these days. The fact that they’ve put their own stamp on whatever they’re doing here is beyond question, because make no mistake, on Uncanny Valley there’s some clever, ambitious, glorious pop being made – and best of all, it sounds like some kind of space age future imagined 30 years ago.