Album Review: Django Django – Born Under Saturn

The well-known ‘second album syndrome’ is an unfortunate dilemma which can affect even the best of bands working on a sophomore release. A band’s second record is one which will either make them (Arctic Monkeys, Muse) or break them (Klaxons). For London-based quartet Django Django this is no different, with their critically acclaimed self-titled debut even earning them a Mercury Award nomination. That was in 2012, though. Three years, plenty of gigs and a lot of studio sessions later and Django Django have finally released Born Under Saturn, the hotly anticipated follow-up to their fantastic debut.

The record opens with the six-minute long Giant, its plonked piano line helping the track out of the starting blocks. Vocalist Vincent Neff’s vocals enter, his recognizable Scottish accent adding a dreamier layer to the song as David Maclean’s shaker percussion follows suit. Django Django songs are known to be very layer-heavy, a trend which has definitely carried on into Born Under Saturn. Where most bands use just a synth to add layering, Django Django add multiple keyboards, various percussive elements and effects-laden guitars to come to a sublime end product. As Giant comes to an end, Shake & Tremble’s fuzzy synth buzzes along to make way for a dancefloor groove preceded and further accompanied by galloping drums. “When the sun is rising and the sky begins to glow” sings Neff in the chorus as a cacophony of instruments underpin his sweet vocal line. It’s during the breakdown that we hear Jimmy Dixon’s pulsating bassline enter the foreground alongside bleeping synths courtesy of Tommy Grace, a combination very well suited to Django Django’s eclectic style. Found You proceeds to the slow the pace slightly as Neff sings, “I’ve seen your face in better days, how times have changed” alongside Dixon’s rhythmic bass and an ambient synth line which takes the helm post-chorus. “The cherry falls, you have no answer” continues Neff in the chorus, before a danceable melody accompanies handclap-ready percussive beats. Comeback single First Light follows in all its club-ready glory, wavy beats bouncing off the walls as Neff sings, “sending out a signal from the city we went, towards a future that’s greener than the money we spent”. Its chorus sees a waspy synth underpin Neff’s vocals as the percussion adds an extra groove to proceedings in order to make the whole affair far more danceable. The song follows a similar structure for the most part, building up towards the end and leading into the bouncy Pause Repeat. This track is helmed by a Caribbean-esque drum beat which injects into it all sorts of life, before the chorus goes down the Bossa Nova route by means of a jazzy piano progression. It’s one of the dancier songs on Born Under Saturn, shifting the focus from thoughtful electro to poolside party. New single Reflections, however, is a mixture of the two as its opening synth line wisps around a pounding drum beat. “Reflections hurt my eyes” sings Neff dreamily during the chorus, before a jazzy piano line follows, adding a 90s house feel to the track. This 90s house feel is enhanced further as a raunchy saxophone enters later on, making the song perfect for indie disco’s and lounge bars the world over.

Vibrations follows a more adventurous route as its borderline trip-hop drum beat is accompanied by a darker guitar and bass combo. Neff’s higher-pitched vocals contrast this as the frontman sings of a “golden phoenix that dances like fire”. “Lead me right into the sun” he sings ahead of a chorus which features crackling snares. By this point, the percussion and bass have combined to form a dark, dubby groove which carries on into the infectious album highlight Shot Down. Its chorus is by far the catchiest and dreamiest on the record, with cowbells and bouncy synths intertwining to make way for a nasty groove. The track comes to an end by means of a full-on ‘groove out’ which sees various percussive instruments make cameos alongside the commonplace synths and basslines. High Moon follows, slowing down the pace as solemn synths and pianos combine during the intro. “You were hidden in the bright daylight” sings Neff during its subdued chorus, waspy synths bubbling up in the background. Beginning to Fade keeps the pace subdued, with the focus shifting more towards guitars as Neff’s strummed chord progression helps the track proceed.

With three songs to go, the record picks up pace once again as 4000 Years re-introduces Dixon’s plucked bass and Neff’s jangly guitar line. The real highlight on 4000 Years, though, is the way that Maclean and Grace combine on the percussion and synthesizer front. The two complement each other well, with Maclean not hesitating to use anything at his disposal as a credible percussion instrument. Penultimate album track Break the Glass proceeds to bring the party elements back to the forefront as jangly guitars take the helm alongside a four-to-the-floor drum beat. “Doesn’t it seem like we’ve been here before?” asks Neff during the first verse, before singing of “breaking through the glass” in the chorus. When put in a live setting, Break the Glass will be the one track which gets the party started like no other. “Sometimes I feel like the only survivor” declares Neff halfway, before another upbeat chorus eventually makes way for the end of the song. Born Under Saturn comes to a close on the equally upbeat Life We Know, which features one of catchiest choruses Django Django have ever put together. “Draw the outline of your past life” sings Neff during the chorus as a vibrant selection of percussion
instruments underpin his recognizable vocals. An instrumental section goes on to play the song out, subsequently closing the curtain on the musical journey that is Born Under Saturn.

With Born Under Saturn, Django Django have proven that they aren’t merely a one-trick pony. The record, which clocks in at just short of an hour, is one which can hardly be faulted. Born Under Saturn is a masterpiece, falling nowhere short from the mark whatsoever. The guitars are jangly and happy, the bass is infectious, the synths are powerful and the percussion is instantly danceable. What more do you want from a record? Exactly.


Born Under Saturn is out now via Because Music.