Release Date: May 21, 2013
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” So said the Preacher of Ecclesiastes. And he said it two and a half thousand years ago, which puts people moaning about things sounding like the ’80s into perspective.It’s rare to hear a record that doesn’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard, and rarer still to hear one that also puts a smile on your face. How many great bands turn their backs on putting out the same old shit only to release records so calculatingly ‘out there’ they feel like maths homework? They forget this is supposed to be FUN.
The disco blueprint laid out by "Get Lucky" begins on album opener (and mission statement) "Give Life Back to Music," on which Nile Rodgers lays down his trademark wah-wah guitars while the robots command the listener to "let the music make it right. " From there, Random Access Memories is a thrilling, grandiose album that defies expectations. Recorded entirely on analog gear, Daft Punk's fourth studio album finds Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo revelling in the potential of big budget studios, enlisting a host of high-profile guests to contribute to a process that, until now, had been almost entirely between just the two of them.
Apparently it’s impossible to talk about Daft Punk without hyperbole. You can set aside all the praise coming from critics, as much as that confirms my point. Just look at “The Collaborators” video series about the making of the pair’s new record, Random Access Memories, and you’ll find the artists themselves tripping over each other to make the most exaggerated assertions.
Let’s play one final bass-drop requiem in memory of EDM. If the genre hasn’t already been wub-wub-wub‘d to death, Daft Punk would like to smother it with its own spirit hoodie. True, the duo’s Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo helped spawn this new wave of harder, faster, stronger dance music — but lately, they’ve been slagging off that scene for its lack of imagination and its overreliance on preset sounds.
When Daft Punk announced they were releasing a new album eight years after 2005's Human After All, fans were starved for new material. The Tron: Legacy score indulged the seminal dance duo's sci-fi fantasies but didn't offer much in the way of catchy songs, so when Random Access Memories' extensive publicity campaign featured tantalizing clips of a new single, "Get Lucky," their fan base exploded. But when the album finally arrived, that hugely hyped single was buried far down its track list, emphasizing that most of these songs are very much not like "Get Lucky" -- or a lot of the pair's previous music, at least on the surface.
In the electronica landscape of the 1990s, Daft Punk first came over as a novelty. Funny band name, funny sound, funny masks, and a funny (and incredibly fun) hit called “Da Funk”, found on their debut album, Homework. They’ve come a long way since, but the playfulness remains, and so does their ability to surprise.
With an album as hyped as this, Daft Punk's first LP in eight years if you discount the Tron: Legacy score, it's probably worthwhile actually addressing the instantly tossed off online community reactions. So to all those cries of "Waaaahhh it's not Homework!" we'd like to paraphrase Bart Simpson and reply "What? They're giving you 75 minutes of entertainment to stream for free. What could they possibly owe you?" .
1 of 2 2 of 2 Daft Punk's best music has always channelled disco's celebratory emotions, so when a snippet of a jaunty Nile Rodgers guitar line introduced the internet to the duo's fourth album, it felt like a rediscovery. Their last LP, Human After All, was oddly mechanical, and their Tron: Legacy soundtrack crushingly formulaic. The rest of Random Access Memories lives up to the promise of Chic frontman Rodgers's riff in all sorts of surprising ways.
Daft PunkRandom Access Memories[Daft Life / Columbia; 2013]By Will Ryan; May 22, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetDaft Punk make music about music. There seems to be two facets to the robots’ persona. The first is the popologist side. This is the side responsible for Discovery--a record that channeled the previous twenty-five years of glitzy pop music, trudging across electro, disco, r&b, rock, and filtered it through Daft Punk’s vision of sample-heavy French house bombast.
In 1948, Pierre Schaeffer founded the very first conservatory for “musique concrète” in Paris, France. Schaeffer’s sole mission was to create an open-minded environment, far removed from the jeering of dissenting critics, where musicians could experiment with recorded sound-manipulation in conjunction with varying degrees of “formal” composition. In doing so, he essentially created headspace for the German “elektronische musik” to occupy in the mid ‘50s -- a movement that would come to influence notable composers such as Phillip Glass, Steve Reich, Karlheniz Stockhausen, and eventually techno/house forerunners, Kraftwerk.
It’s bizarre to realise, but even a quick glance towards Wikipedia is enough to point out that Daft Punk have released barely anything of real importance for over a decade. The last time they felt as big as their reputation was back when Discovery ruled the world’s airwaves in the early ‘00s. Ever since then it’s been a serious of diminishing returns and largely forgotten releases: the deeply flawed though rather underrated Human After All only ever gets a mention when people discuss how disappointing it was, the buzz around the Tron soundtrack died down quickly after people realised it was a movie soundtrack rather than a proper Daft Punk album, and barely anyone even knows there’s a few remix albums and compilations floating around.
I missed Random Access Memories landing on iTunes by about 12 hours. I was on my way home from work when the stream went live, and when I walked in the door I immediately set to packing for a trip. As my plane landed the next morning, my travelling companion asked for my take on the previous night's Twitter shitstorm, and only then did I realize the new Daft Punk album was actually—finally—an existing piece of music, not merely a glimmer on the horizon of the most elaborate hype campaign in recent memory.I was as thrilled to hear the album as anyone, but I also knew I'd be late to the party: despite the fact that any sane person would have only had the chance to listen through three or four times, opinions had already hardened.
Ballads. Jazzy interludes. Low BPMs. Live drums. An Andrew Lloyd Webber moment. These things don't often figure in discussions of Daft Punk, the electronic duo whose filtered French house crossed over from clubs to charts 16 years ago with their debut album, Homework. Random Access Memories, their ….
On YouTube, you can find cameraphone footage of an advert for Daft Punk's fourth studio album that was beamed out from the main stage at last month's Coachella festival. If you want proof that Random Access Memories is, by some distance, the most eagerly anticipated album of recent years, then here it is. For one thing, there's the very fact that, in the middle of a festival, someone's opted to get their phone out and film not a band, or their friends, or the sunburnt man with his eyeballs pointing in different directions who's drawn a crowd outside the dance tent by stripping naked from the waist down and manipulating his genitals in time to the music, but an advert being shown on the big screens.
French duo Daft Punk helped create our current stadium-shaking, Coachella-dominating dance-music moment, and their new album is by far the year's most anticipated EDM set. The only issue is that it sounds almost nothing like EDM. Random Access Memories is full of WTF moments: Julian Casablancas delivering maybe the most emotive vocals of his career through a vocoder-style haze; dance godfather Giorgio Moroder waxing nostalgic on an electro-jazz-funk epic; pop-schmaltz guru Paul Williams ("We've Only Just Begun") playing a love-starved cyborg in a disco fantasia.
Random Access Memories has been echoing in the metallic domes of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo for half a decade. The sheer number of collaborations on RAM, including noted movie composers Paul Williams and Giorgio Moroder, finds Daft Punk building upon their new-flesh narrative, adding to their storied, cinematic mythos of the diminishing boundary between computers and people. What sort of film is this? Bangalter has shared that the group is ?[D]rawing a parallel between the brain and the hard drive ? the random way that memories are stored.? This tale of robots yearning to live like men is a motif soldered throughout the group?s multimedia career.
“The first time I heard them, I saw the ‘Around the World’ video. I had sort of just gotten wind of electronic music and was hearing a lot of stuff that I’d never heard before.”– Panda Bear A CD-R in a flimsy black jewel case, only identifiable by a single word written in black Sharpie on the front of the disc: “Discovery.” My best friend’s older brother had burned a copy of the album and given it to him, and now it was being passed along to me. It was middle school, probably late 6th or early 7th grade, right at that vital exploratory moment when my musical inclinations were first starting to take root.
We've all had those nights out. You know it happened, but you've no idea how. Well, that's a bit what listening to Daft Punk's Random Access Memories is like. That is, if you fell down the disco rabbit hole into a synth-funk dominated Wonderland. You're getting ready for your night out somewhere in ….
What trumps being a legend? Being a pioneer. The chrome-domed robots that jacked the bodies of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter on the eve of the 21st century long ago settled their claim on the former title (by my estimation, at the moment the fake-out kick drum at the beginning of the filter-disco epic “One More Time” gave way to the meaty thud of the real beat), but they evidently believe the latter can't be earned through reputation alone, which is undoubtedly why they felt compelled to provide Giorgio Moroder the forum to compose his disco life and times for nine indulgent minutes. Daft Punk's long-in-progress new album Random Access Memories, simultaneously the most narcissistic and selfless gesture in their careers so far, is a painstaking mission statement.
Sasha Frere-Jones’ review of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories baffled many in the critic’s corner this week as he insisted that this album asks, “Does good music have to be good?” This is actually a very fitting koan for a duo whose consensus classic Discovery received low-to-middling marks from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, AV Club and Village Voice in 2001, narrowly beating out Macy Gray in that year’s Pazz & Jop poll in points even though Gray’s album had four more supporters. Since then, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have released two other studio albums, Human After All which is savaged to this day, and Random Access Memories, which is released this day. It’s getting a mixed array of responses, which is odd.
Daft Punk have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde proposition throughout a career of flitting between electro house and rough-round-the-edges synth-rock. For every Da Funk to soundtrack your swagger, there’s an Around The World to numb you with repetitive banality. They may have inspired a legion of bedroom producers but, on Random Access Memories, the French duo’s focus is on performers.
When Random Access Memories finally arrives, it will do so in the wake of a sustained and coordinated promotion campaign of Hollywood proportions. A gallery of artsy videos exists online in which each of Daft Punk’s collaborators sing their praises while underlining that the result of their collaborations has been something new and visionary. Daft Punk, it seems, are on a mission to bring humanity back to the dance machine, and by all accounts, they have done so triumphantly.
This is a dazzling album, steeped in soul and brimming with an uncommon musicality, all rhythmic urgency and compelling melodies and anthemic choruses. Traditional disco tropes abound, from vocoder-drenched vocals to handclaps-as-percussion to sleeky-silky fretboard flourishes (and yes, that is Nile Fucking Rodgers playing guitar throughout the album—speaking of tradition). But there’s no winking irony at play.
Every sentient being in the cosmos has been ripping fistfuls of hair, feathers, fur, scales, tentacles, and metal protuberances from his or her or its body in anticipation of the new Daft Punk album Random Access Memories. After teasing us with snippets of guitar licks and hagiographic videos from their luminary collaborators, the robots have finally landed on Earth to present their stunning magnum opus, a tribute to the very un-punk 1970s: disco and L.A. soft rock, in particular, and lavish studio craftsmanship, in general.
For a very long time now it certainly felt as if Daft Punk weren’t going to return from their spaceship any time soon. Coy and playfully, this spaceship has been referenced even by Pharrell Williams in mentioning the French duo’s electric and eclectic take on music. Whatever the case was, it’s always been well-known and furthermore, well-received, that Daft Punk were always a musician’s group.
Rockists grudgingly admit a love for Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. The Parisian duo paved a path for electronic dance music, once the bane of a traditional rockist’s oevure—and I use that lightly. Remember, while disco may be the snotty polyester-clad teenager in the history of popular music, rock is the grumpy father who fails to recognize that there was different, interesting music before him and that there will continue to be exciting new music after him.
“Sad robot”. These are the latest words frantically scrawled on the notepad in front of me as I’m sat in a room at label Columbia’s west London offices listening to the most-hyped album in recent (ahem) memory. While stifling a giggle – there are two other journalists beside me, plus the band’s PR – it’s at this point the fact ‘Random Access Memories’ is not going to be an ordinary album becomes very evident.‘Get Lucky’ is to be released the following day, but thanks to the impatience of a Dutch radio DJ, it’s well on the way to becoming the song of the year already.
An interview with Italian producer Giorgio Moroder introduces the third track of Random Access Memories. Just before the beat drops, the famed dance puppeteer sums up Daft Punk's fourth LP: "Once you free your mind about a concept of harmony and music being correct, you can do whatever you want." RAM beats a lot of disco, a liberal dose of camp, and bleats nothing but a vocoder to mark it as traditional Daft Punk. And yet, in an age where their brand of electronica has touched off its own DIY revolution, the helmeted French duo flip the script and make disco cool again.
At just over 45 minutes, 2005’s “Human After All” was Daft Punk’s shortest album. It’s also the only one not to have gone gold. Perhaps in response, the 75-minute “Random Access Memories” is the French electronic act’s longest yet.
Daft Punk have been playing robots since the mid-‘90s, but let’s look at the reality here: Thomas Bangalter is 38 and Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo is 39. They are grown men – wealthy, grown human men – with families, and Bangalter’s now sensible enough to have mostly stopped DJing to protect his ears. Is it really a surprise that after almost three decades of making music together, not just as Daft Punk but as salad days projects like Darlin’, that they have gone and made a soft rock record? For all the talk of Chic, Random Access Memories isn’t a disco album – it’s a soft rock LP on a throwback (read: big) budget, by two people whose last major project was soundtracking a Disney movie in California.
Perhaps no other album in 2013 sums itself up better than Random Access Memories when, on “Lose Yourself to Dance,” that Daft Punk-trademarked robot voice repeats “come on, come on, come on, come on!” with increasing insistence. Because Random Access Memories could have been so good: billed as a lush, live-instrument homage to ’70s schmaltz and teased by the now ubiquitous “Get Lucky,” all signs pointed to a great, silly, nostalgic dance party. And we do get that, sort of.
For those that saw it six years ago, Daft Punk's Alive tour has become the stuff of legend. The duo's audio visual pyramid created a template for the electronic music live show that many have since tried to emulate to varying degrees of success since – Etienne De Crecy has his cube, Amon Tobin has his ISAM, Scuba has his… fluorescent tubing. But despite the high concept nature of the show, it was never about the spectacle – it was about togetherness.