Earlier this year Soulwax unleashed the glorious live CD / DVD / Documentary Part of the Weekend Never Dies and it is very difficult not to view and critique A Cross the Universe, itself a live DVD and Documentary / Film, in the same context. And if you do you are left with a far more two dimensional experience: unlike the Soulwax documentary the Justice 'film' is deliberately obtuse. So much so in fact that you will probably feel you know less about the Gallic duo when it is finished than when it began.
Part of the Weekend was an insightful peek into a band that became part of a scene with no name, their influences, their peers and those they have themselves inspired, not to mention life on the road when on a (very) long tour. A Cross the Universe is exclusively a look at the last of these elements and whereas the Soulwax package featured live recordings here there are no full length tracks, just snippets. There is no real insight beyond an anecdotal look at just how weird it is to be a pair of young musicians thrust into fame in a foreign land and at times BlackPlastic was genuinely unsure whether the content on screen was genuine or scripted.
This last fact is probably particularly telling. Real or not, A Cross the Universe is a commentary not on THIS band, but a commentary on being in bands in general and the bizarre and twisted life it leads to. If nothing else, this DVD goes someway to explaining how you end up like Ozzy Osbourne.
So is it any good? BlackPlastic genuinely has no idea.
The CD is a little easier to comment on. You may or may not be aware of the recent controversy surrounding a photo that appeared to show Justice 'playing live' despite that fact their equipment was not plugged in. In good nature the band joked about performing 'unplugged' and argued that the error was noticed when the particular piece of equipment failed to work and there are indeed later shots from the evening that show the equipment with power. This in itself is evidence of the barmyness of being on tour - the fact that such a thing could go unnoticed for long enough that photographic evidence survives.
It also raises a question over whether the recording here is anything more than a studio tweaked version of Cross played to an audience. But it is important to remember that this doesn't actually matter. Firstly because the act of listening to a recorded 'live' event in your home is stupid anyway and secondly because live electronic music is often about little more than spectacle. With none of the vocalists present, what Justice are delivering is the shared experience of enjoying their music with like-minded individuals and, to be honest, putting Cross on shuffle in a big room would work almost as well.
So the tracks are suitably adjusted and there are a couple of re-edits for the die hard fans but the main point off this recording is the audible excitement of the crowd as they cheer and join in. The audio quality is questionable and in BlackPlastic's opinion it isn't as consistent a set as the Soulwax one on Part of the Weekend but there is still enough here to keep you going until the follow up to Cross.