There’ll be a lot of people talking about and reviewing Daft Punk’s new album at the moment, but seeing as I’ve been banging on about them non-stop on Twitter, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to share my opinion in the form of a blog post.
The people who praised Homework as the best and only good thing Daft Punk have done, will love Random Access Memories. It’s different and trying to break new ground (even if that is through using old influences). And probably the people who liked the pop-ier Daft Punk music, like One More Time will wonder what the hell this is. For me personally, a bit of self-confessed fanboy, I appreciate everything they’ve done, each album and what is has contributed to listeners and the music industry alike.
I’m too young to have known the context and witnessed the influence had Homework when it was released in 1997, but it is a exceptional record that took electronic music and sampling into a new domain. I still listen to it now and it still sounds fresh. I discovered Daft Punk around the time Discovery was big. It may not have been their best technically, but the synthy poppy electronic sound is what I credit for my love of electronic music now.
So eight years and one mind-blowing tour later, Random Access Memories crops up. This time Daft Punk have gone back to go forward. Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter have been heavily influenced of the era they grew up in, the 70s and 80s. They have created an album with a bunch of collaborators and some figure heads of disco, Georgio Moroder and Niles Rodgers.
“We were drawing a parallel between the brain and the hard drive – the random way that memories are stored.” – Rolling Stone
Daft Punk set out on RAM in 2008, and they gradually built up a collection of live music, filling hard drives, something that would never have been possible in the 70s. Then set out to find patterns and create connections between all the instruments, loops, vocals they had recorded. Everything is recorded using real instruments, and unlike their previous albums there is only one sample used in their final track “Contact”; which features a recording of the last man on the moon.
“Like ex-smokers turned anti-tobacco militants, Daft Punk have been disparaging EDM in the press, and without forsaking their Kiss-like robot personae, they’ve built a record more or less wholly on live instrumentation.” —Rolling Stone
Their first hit and arguably the most ‘pop’ track on the album “Get Lucky” has been No.1 in the UK charts for 5 weeks now. Most will credit this to clever PR, but there is something about the track that is infectious. It doesn’t get boring and is simply happy; fun without trying too hard.
There’s a few tracks that really do make you want to dance. Probably even more so than “Get Lucky”, Pharell’s vocals and Nile Rodger’s guitar on “Lose Yourself To Dance” is even harder to sit still to.
“Daft Punk have the knack of knowing when to shift gear, so that tracks constantly mutate. Over 72 minutes of wild and wayward explorations, they embrace chugging new wave rock, sleek soul, cocktail lounge crooning and Dixieland jazz but there’s nothing here to scare kids off the dance floor.” —The Telegraph
The whole album is really rather varied but all with underlying disco influence. I love Giorgio by Moroder - over 10 minutes it builds from an auto-biographical speech to full on big, thumping club track similar in style to the Daft Punk we’ve known and loved.
There are some whackier more ambitious tracks on there – “Touch” sits right in the middle of the album in between the two Pharrell tracks. It features 250 different elements all brought together into something that sounds like it’s straight from a musical.
Other favourites of mine are the excellently mellow “Instant Crush” with Julian Casablanca, vocally superb “Fragments of Time” with Todd Edwards, and arguably the most 2013-sounding track “Doin’ It Right” with Panda Bear.
It’s Daft Punk’s most expensive album and probably most ambitious. They’ve clearly said that they are not impressed with the state of EDM and this is their answer. The album will hopefully challenge producers to rethink how they do things, inject some craft back into dance music and get back to what music should be all about: dancing. Only time will tell if Daft Punk mange to influence the industry once again, but in the mean time, get your dancing shoes on, and enjoy this extraordinary record.
Get Random Access Memories on iTunes on the 20th May.