Django Django seem to wear their influences on their sleeves. There’s the obvious Beach Boys, whose Pet Sounds is as ubiquitous in indie rock as it can be. All the harmonies, surf guitars – that’s them. On their newest album, Born Under Saturn, the Beach Boys are still present, but so is the influence of a noted Beach Boys disciple, Panda Bear. The band has clearly expanded their sonic palate since their eponymous debut, but the change isn’t exactly a welcome one. The addition of more synths (some of the synths sound as if they’re taken straight from Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, particularly on “Shot Down”) and the added importance they’re given in the mix doesn’t serve the music. Rather, Django Django’s laid back, catchy but complex surf vibe seems to decrease in inverse proportion to the amount of synths used on each song.
All that being said, Django Django seem incapable of writing a bad song. Nothing on Born Under Saturn is all that interesting, but none of it is ever less than “O.K.” The band has an arsenal of weapons, often subtle weapons, real cloak and dagger stuff, they consistently resort to in order to give their songs that little something they need. Consider “Pause Repeat,” the chorus of which would sound cheesy in another band’s hands, but Django Django includes those flat 7 harmonies they seem to love so much, clouding up those major chords and lending just a hint of dissonance. Or consider the organ on “Found You.” It’s a bit of a dusty, droning song in a good, swampy way, but the jarringly dissonant organ riff that pops in at about the minute and a half mark snaps you out of the lull and forces you back to attention. It’s a ballsy and rewarding move.
Getting back to the album title for a second, it seems as if the record was aptly named. Judging by the cover art, a Greco-Roman Statue, the title is an allusion to the Ancient Roman god Saturn — the god of both wealth and destruction. Django Django has a wealth of talent and their songwriting abilities are unqeustionable, but, as so often happens with wealth, people are loath to stay content. Contentment can be a killer in music, but so can experimenting with new toys at the cost of the fundamentals. Their core sound is still here, but its more focused and more electric. Neither is a good thing.