Daft Punk: Random Access Memories

Posted May 21, 2013 by in Disco



4/ 5


Genre: ,
Genre: Disco, electronica
Producer: Daft Punk
Label: Columbia
Format: Digital download, compact disc, vinyl
Time: 74:24
Release Date: 17 May 2013
Spin This: "Get Lucky," "Give Life Back to Music," "


An organic Daft Punk proves to be more than robots; Nile Rodgers, Pharrell, Panda Bear and Julian Casablancas and team of A-list musicians blesses Daft Punk with musical grandeur


Lyrically repetitive and ambiguous, but not necessarily important for dance music

Daft Punk’s RAM is not a simple probe into computer data space; it’s their most defined and organic album to date

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Daft Punk’s RAM is not a simple probe into computer data space; it’s their most defined and organic album to date

The ascension to worldwide fame for French dance duo Daft Punk began way before the SNL commercials dropped. Before they ventured into the territory of motion picture soundtracks with Tron: Legacy, Daft Punk had already been crowned the posterchild of EDM. They eventually inspired James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem to develop the disco-rock jam “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House,” giving the NYC group their first breakout hit. Nowadays it seems like the EDM pair, comprised of Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, are playing at everybody’s house. Thanks to 2013’s first-place summer jam “Get Lucky,” the duo has made the rocket launch into the stratosphere of pop royalty and no longer relegated to the Ultra Music Festival crowd. Explaining the phenomenon may take some time, but the strategy inside the lead single for Random Access Memories – the group’s first new studio album in seven years – is all about embracing the glory days.

Just that observation alone may ruffle more than a few feathers on the backs of critics and Daft Punk followers. Exploring the past isn’t exactly the strongest suit for robots, especially since they take great pride in exploring the far reaches of the future. But their recently unveiled disapproval of today’s direction of EDM, by claiming it’s in a “crisis mode” and that many of their contemporaries are falling into a pit of homogeneity, gives them the inspiration to reflect on the inventions that preceded them. Remarkably, that means no samples, no laptops and a return to real instrumentation. On the surface, these barriers seem like they would strip away the layers of Daft Punk’s manhood. Without the ProTools systematics, one would think they would be powerless and lethargic. But it is those setbacks that help open up a new frontier of discovery, as they carefully select a team of all-stars to compliment their musical DNA. Each one shows off their guns, from Nile Rodgers’s inescapable funky guitar riffs on “Give Life Back to Music,” “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Get Lucky” to Julian Casablancas’s New Wave surfing on “Instant Crush.” Disco innovator and famed synth explorer Giorgio Moroder shares a mini-documentary of his groundbreaking odyssey into future music on top of a nine-minute electro-meets-jazz fusion rollercoaster. Pharrell Williams shows off slick falsetto, best evidenced on “Get Lucky.” The Panda Bear-guested “Doin’ It Right” plays with old school hip-hop beats, as Daft Punk show off their best Roger Troutman harmonies. Unlike their previous dancefloor odysseys, Daft Punk takes ballsy risks into the world of smooth California rock and West Coast-blessed ballads. “Fragments of Time” and “Beyond” both sound like cruises down Doobie Brothers Boulevard, while “Within” is painted using drum brush effects and Chilly Gonzales’s romantic piano, while playing with the dreamy kaleidoscopes of Foreigner’s “I’ve Been Waiting for a Girl Like You.” At the forefront of their disguises, Daft Punk does an incredible job to pour heartfelt emotion into their vocoder leads. On “The Game of Love,” a song dipped in Sade-like romance and Frankie Beverly slow jam ingredients, the pair exposes their revelations of a broken heart: “And it was you/The one that would be breaking my heart/When you decided to walk away/When I wanted you to stay.”

Any manifestation of a complete list of lyrics comes off as being extremely repetitive, a familiar echo of the proudest disco anthems of yore. The six-minute album version of “Get Lucky,” for example, is wrought with loops of the jingle-heavy phrasing of “we’re up all night to get lucky.” But those complaints seem so trivial as soon as the sweetness of the Chic-sounding funk and Daft Punk’s robotic vocals are added in. The same could be said about “Doin’ It Right,” where the robotic chants and candy lane chorus almost sound as if they are part of some grand scheme to hypnotize listeners. Then factor in Daft Punk’s need to revive Roger Troutman-esque vocal effects and the little pet peeves start to seem so petty. And when there are hardly any messages to convey, like on the Kraftwerk-meets-Peter Gabriel canvassed “Motherboard,” they resort to Morse code to get the job done. The astonishing assignment acts like a Pink Floyd interlude done inside a tech advanced universe.

Regardless of what the main reasons are, Random Access Memories will clearly go in history as being the first Daft Punk album that isn’t Daft Punk-ish, although we could toss Tron: Legacy into that category if only it wasn’t a soundtrack disc. You do start to miss eargasm jams like “Da Funk” and Deep House-spiked workouts like “Around the World” and “One More Time.” What you will get is Daft Punk stripped down to their musical core and barren of the prevalent electronica gimmicks. Thankfully on this round, they are propped up by authentic musicianship (jazz musician Nathan East, session guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr., Rufus drummer John “J.R.” Robinson, pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz) accompanied by soaring guitars, superior drumming and a delicious assortment of radio treats and superior album-only art pieces. The final product will easily be branded as one of the best rock-disco operas constructed since Donna Summer’s Bad Girls.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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