Justice have released an intense video for their song Stress. I was linked to it through the Modular label’s mailout, via the comment: “Just thought we’d throw a rub n’ tug the way of our buddies Ed Banger, who’s latest video for Justice’s latest single Stress has been watched by everyone in the office like five times today, dope clip, check it out HERE.”

I was initially sceptic, especially since Modular is a label that I increasingly find uninteresting. I don’t like Justice much, either. D.A.N.C.E. was one of the most overplayed songs of 2007, and I’d prefer to never hear it again. Still, I clicked, and I loaded the video in subdued anticipation.

The video depicts a gang of ten youths who undertake a seemingly unprovoked criminal rampage. The most shocking element is that they appear emotionless and indiscriminate toward their numerous victims. The violence appears very real, especially the bottle broken against the bartender’s skull.

The director breaks the fourth wall when the video’s sound guy appears holding a boom microphone in the latter half of the video. It’s unclear why the cameraman is following the group, and at the end of the video, the group turns on him.

The video provokes an emotional response in the viewer almost immediately, due to its shocking nature. Why are these men acting in this way? Most unnerving of all is their absolute confidence and seemingly invulnerability. The actions of a determined, violent few can evidently unsettle society in a surprising manner.

The music itself is barely noticeable once the action is underway. The schizophrenic beat suits the video’s vision perfectly. The only laugh-out-loud moment is when the hoodlums are driving a stolen car, and the aforementioned Justice song D.A.N.C.E. is heard on the radio – which is subsequently kicked in, and thrown out the window. This is Justice dispelling their radio-friendly image in an overt and provocative way.

You’re not going to see this video on any publicly broadcasted channel. You probably wouldn’t be aware the video existed until you got linked to it. I know that I wouldn’t have. It’s a fucking intense piece of work. I’ve watched it four times in a row. To me, its attraction lies in the fact that what occurs in the video is so far detached from social norms. It’s one thing to sit happily imitating these crimes in your living room while playing Grand Theft Auto 4, but it’s an entirely different beast to see actual people engaging in these acts – acted or not.

My mind is drawn to a Jim Whimpey-linked post regarding the nature of violence being considered more obscene than sex.

It’s ridiculous. Murder (bloody, violent murder in the case of video games) is a crime, it ends people’s lives. Sex on the other hand is not a crime, it’s in our biological nature, it’s enjoyable, it’s a mandatory requirement to create life. Yet sex is considered more obscene than violence. Stupid.

Bravo, Justice. Stress is the most memorable music video I’ve seen this year. It’s directed by Romain-Gavras. The video is further discussed here.

Update (16 May 2008): There’s another interesting analysis of the video here.

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