I’m afraid that Django Django’s self-titled debut (2012) might be one of those albums that were hailed in the year of their release, but viewed in a larger time frame will be forgotten/ignored. The band’s follow-up album will undergo no such fate since the album is not even hailed now. Born Under Saturn is probably a slightly better album than the band’s debut, but the novelty of Django Django’s interstellar surf-sound has worn off and the Scots have decided this time to focus on their songwriting instead of new or improved musical gimmicks. An admirable move by which they knowingly and willingy have stepped into the trap of the difficult second album.
Although it was not really a concept album, Django Django’s debut album to me felt quite consistent in its mission of gallant eccentricity. Of Born Under Saturn the band said: ‘We treat each song like its own little universe.’ And indeed the album feels more like a ‘mix tape’ than a rounded narrative. Since most little universes on Born Under Saturn are worth igniting your hyper-drive for, the fact that their interconnection is loose at most, is only a temporary obstacle. It takes a bit longer to get into Born Under Saturn, but once you do the rewards are all the greater. The album does not contain a radio friendly single like Default, on the other hand it does not contain total dead-weight like Zumm Zumm either. Many songs on Born Under Saturn feel like the majestic reprise of songs on the debut album. Opener Giant, for instance, takes the reverent rhythm of Waveforms to a new level of inciting, Shake And Tremble picks up the space chopper where WOR left it parked, while songs like Find You and Vibrations add new exciting chapters to the gospel of Haile Bop. In short: when Django Django elaborate on themes introduced on their debut the result is almost always an improvement, the exception being the lengthy 4000 Years.
The trap of the difficult second album is of course that nobody is satisfied with doing an improved version of their success album and it’s precisely when Django Django are treading relatively new ground that not all the pieces immediately fall together. Some examples: the early house piano on Pause/Repeat stopped being tolerable shortly after the Happy Mondays and the songs chorus tries so hard to lift the listeners mood that it has the opposite effect. The darkwave intro and outro of Shot Down reminds me from Depeche Mode’s Barrel Of A Gun. Nothing wrong with that except that there is not enough of a song in between to justify the loan. Also when Django Django are beginning to sound like a native folk-rock band from planet earth like on Breaking The Glass they a lose some of their shine. All in all, the peaks far outnumber the lows on Born Under Saturn. The pleasantly pendulous Beginning To Fade is a new direction that does work instantly. It’s lovely chorus will remind old people of the Beach Boys middle aged people of XTC and young people of Grizzly Bear. The new romantic brass section on Reflections (very Duran Duran) is another highlight on this, already grossly undervalued, album. I take comfort in the thought that Django Django are the biggest band of all time in at least 13 universes that our limited technology prevents us from observing.