I was very much a latecomer to the great Django Django party circa 2012. Their eponymous debut served up a juicy selection of jangled riffs, paradoxically monotonous harmony and eclectic instrumental variety, but perhaps most crucially, was riddled with absolute belters. Whilst it’s perhaps unfair to boil down an album two years in the making to a set of indie ear-worms, tracks like WOR inevitably thrust the British quartet before a mass audience through the unenviable medium of sports advertising. Despite their relative commercial success, in amongst the whirlwind of drudging indie-pop relentlessly choking the airwaves, Django Django have been able to carve out a little idiosyncratic niche at a commendably early stage.
Three years later and the group have arrived at the precipice of the dreaded sophomore slump. Such a miscellaneous set of influences makes the prospect of the infamous second album even more nerve wrecking for those militant few who so zealously adopted Django Django back in 2012. Perhaps equally unsettling is the derivation of the album’s title, Born Under Saturn, which shares its name with 20th Century Rudolf Wittaker’s book on the synonymous relation between artistic inspiration and madness. Despite somewhat tedious anxieties, the prognosis on Born Under Saturn isn’t all that bad; there are certainly several changes to stylistic flare, but enough of the ideological substance that make Django Django so intriguing remains in tact.
Those who came for jangling riffs and monastic chanting will have to wade patiently through the first three quarters before chowing down on 4000 Years, perhaps the most tangible nod to the group’s debut you’re likely to find. Patient wading it may be, but it’s not an entirely fruitless journey; Reflections, which was one of the pre-released singles, layers up nicely as it swims toward a synth-y crescendo, with a tasty little sax interlude to boot.
However where the experimental Reflections engages, subsequent efforts High Moon and Beginning To Fade never really kick into second-gear, instead leisurely bobbing along from one movement to the next. It’s certainly pleasant, but for a band at it’s most intriguing when melding pulsating riffs with jittery whistles, pleasant seems oddly inappropriate and ultimately disappointing.
Born Under Saturn isn’t going to blow you away and, for some fans of the relentless faux-funk that riddled Django Django’s debut, it may even represent a disappointment. A generous helping of synth seems to have become a staple of the indie-banquet, and yet there’s something about this record that lacks that raw tangy energy of its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong, they have clearly produced a tidy piece of work, but in a way that’s exactly the problem.
Looking forward I find myself in two minds. The sceptic in me would perhaps earmark Django Django for stagnation, questioning whether there’s enough substance behind stylistic quirks that could easily begin to wear thin, and yet there’s something about their penchant for eclecticism that encourages me. Any group that actively seeks inspiration in the manner that they do have the capacity to surprise you, and I can’t ignore the possibility that this fledgling quartet just may mature into something truly intriguing.