I believe a wise man with long, blond hair and thick glasses once said, “We fear change!” But is that really what’s happening here?
Electronic music legends Daft Punk have just released “Random Access Memories,” the band’s homage to music of the 70s and 80s. It’s sure to be a polarizing album because Daft Punk’s signature style of endlessly repeating samples has been completely discarded. Instead, the lovable robots have decided to release a collection of studio recordings, collaborating with disco-era legends like Nile Rodgers and artists who sound like disco-era legends, such as Pharrell Williams. How does it stack up to the duo’s previous works? Strangely enough, I think it may be their best.
This is coming from a guy who has listened almost exclusively to electronic music for more than 15 years. Admittedly, I’ve always liked disco music and felt it had an undeserved bad reputation. Daft Punk and disco haters alike probably realize the soundtrack to a time of epic afros and explosive bell-bottoms was a bit cartoony. The difference is, Daft Punk have chosen to embrace the cartoonishness. After all, disco opened the way for them and countless other electronic music artists, so it is certainly deserving of respect. “Discovery,” the band’s highly praised sophomore effort has a major 70s vibe to it (One could say it was “Veridis Quo”). Now, with a wink and a nod, the robots have fully channeled the era and all of its eccentricities.
Indulgent orchestral intros, ridiculous guitar solos, synchronized clapping, and emotional robo-singing are all here, and all form an important part of the whole. Silly fun has been a cornerstone of Daft Punk music since the very beginning. So, really, “Random Access Memories” isn’t the out-of-left-field oddity some people would have you believe.
This album is both lush and crisp, boasting some of the best track mastering I’ve ever heard. Song placement could’ve used a little work, as the bulk of the great tunes are back-loaded. For the most part, it flows wonderfully. It’s almost as if it was meant to be heard…. as an album! Pretty nutty idea in the age of pick-what-you-want music services. One more throwback, I suppose.
My favorites of the album are “Give Life Back to Music,” “Get Lucky,” and “Beyond.” “The Game of Love” and “Within” are probably the weakest of the set, but mostly because they suck the energy out of the room after two electrifying pieces (“Give Life Back to Music” and “Giorgio by Moroder” respectively).