Garnering a Mercury Prize nomination on the first try is quite the coup for a new band, though Glasgow’s Django Django has been blessed with some fortuitous company along the way. For starters, drummer Dave Maclean is the younger brother of John Maclean, keyboardist for The Beta Band. And early on in the group’s formation, Maclean and singer/guitarist Vinny Neff performed alongside Phantom Band bassist Duncan Marquiss. These are both fairly instructive connections in terms of diving into Django Django’s sonic make-up. Like both The Phantom Band and the Beta Band, Django Django plays a surreal kind of indie rock that exists in several places at once — jaunty, absurd, psychedelic, futuristic, anachronistic, danceable, ramshackle and fluid.
In any given song on Django Django’s debut, the band switches up their formula, if one can even really call it as such, producing a strange new blend of electronics and guitar-bass-drums jangle in a variety of permutations. Few of them sound much alike, but the recurrent flavors of danceable ditties and krautrock pulses are the most constant of their many approaches. Django Django’s electronic impulses take center stage on “Zumm Zumm,” a synth-driven throbber that builds up more like a house track than a rock song, though its wobbly, playful edges keep it from ever being a strict dance number. Meanwhile, the Devo-style Moog pulse of “Hail Bop” underscores some stunning surf guitar riffs and transcendent vocal harmonies. A sped-up “Rock `n’ Roll Part 2” beat drives the hand-clapping sing-along in “Firewater,” and the outstanding single “WOR” injects some rave sirens into a Dick Dale/Link Wray surfabilly hoedown.
For how much Django Django employ an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach on their debut, they have an excellent handle on knowing where all the pieces fit. Certainly, the album treads so much ground that the transition from one track to the next means being dropped in an entirely different sound-world altogether, sometimes. That, in part, is what makes the album such a roaring success — for such an accessible, catchy pop album, it never feels overly familiar or old hat. The other half of it being a roaring success, however, is just how easy Django Django make it sound.
Stream: Django Django – “Hail Bop”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.