Daft Punk Album Review (May 2013)

Daft Punk. We all know them. Or at least, we all know about them. And if we didn’t before Random Access Memories was released, we most definitely do now.

5 years is a long time. In today’s future world, at the pace we’re going, it’s even longer. It’s a lot of time for someone to learn about themselves. RAM doesn’t even feel like we’re even listening to that kind of growth. Maybe that’s why there’s so much backlash. Not about sounding different, but emotionally, maybe the collective fan base expected some sort of growth or at least some novelty.

What we all received was something more than that. We got something super personal from people who, for so many years, decided to remain semi-anonymous. And maybe that’s all we should have expected. I keep saying we as if I had any idea what they were working on. Honestly, I hadn’t really thought about them in a long time. 5 years is a really long time.

RAM opens with a crash that instantly puts you front and center at a rock concert. A legit rock concert. The funky rhythm guitars, and full warm bassline that follow lock on to your whole nervous system and make you want to smile. This is Give Life Back To Music, the first track on the album. It sets the tone for what would overall end up sounding like really fun dance music. Oh, no, it doesn’t at all sound like what passes for today’s “dance” music. It sounds even better than that.

Disco is the name of the game. The first three tracks sound like disco had a party and invited gritty cop shows. Seriously, the vibraphones, the rhodes keys, the silky smooth bass. It’s so funky, yet so chilled out, that you sort of can’t stop listening. It’s not as electronic as one might as expect from Daft Punk (speaking generally). (speaking specifically) I hadn’t expected anything or listened to their earlier material before hand recently. So what I experienced with those fresh ears was the ridiculously warm tones. Without caring about the content of the lyrics first, I was hooked by the production quality.

Giorgio By Moroder is produced so well, and not just well, but with a simple attitude. The simplicity of this particular track, broken up by two actual Giorgio Moroder anecdotes, is actually where the homage to the god of synth lies. If you actually go back and listen for it, the old Moroder classics are all very very simple. By that, I mean: not complicated. It’s the right elements being twirled about together in that specific way that makes it a “Moroder” composition.

Rhodes seem to be a key element to this album. A great choice, I might add. With the generous amount of those rhodes keys, you’re allowed to get into that 70s cop show vibe. With all the emotion that those chords can inspire. There does seem to be a deliberate attempt to inject wide swathes of good feelings and emotions. Maybe they really are... just human after all.

...ugh, another ‘human after all’ pun?
But seriously, Within, the track that transitions us from the wanton fun of the first three tracks, takes us deep down into what these possibly think on a day to day basis. We can’t ever be sure, because we don’t know them, but it’s kind of fun to get think that these robots can get this introspective. It’s got that classic Daft Punk vocoder vocals mixed with dreamy synths. What makes it a great track are the harmonies. From track to track, the progressions of chords and inherent harmonies really activates some sort of emotional third eye and make you feelthink. I just made that up. Feelthink. Ha.

The next five tracks are what I would call the Radio tracks. Any number of them, from Julian Casablanca’s vocals on Instant Crush, to Pharell’s vocals on Lose Yourself To Dance and Get Lucky, even to Paul Williams’ soft and heartfeltly pseudo ballad Touch. They seemed designed for that radio airtime. Touch is very honest and moving, it totally sounds like his Love Boat theme in the middle. It’s so Paul Williams, even Paul Williams probably said “jeez, I did it again.”

Beyond sounds like a Daft Punk train collided with a Michael Mcdonald one. I can’t not think of his I Keep Forgetting when listening to it. If you don’t know what song that is, look it up, and then you’ll be like “ohhh, that one.” Motherboard sounds like they had just gotten done with a Phillip Glass marathon and then hopped into the studio. Those staccatos are super sweet. Doin’ It Right just screams Brian Wilson. They have mentioned loving Brian Wilson in press stuff for other albums and shows a lot on this track. 

The drums are lackluster though, I feel like they should have just dropped the modern electro drums for some sort of other bassy rhythm keeper. They feel out of place. Contact is a wonderful sound collage that possibly tells some story about them leaving for/coming back from space? Not so sure. Either way, it sounds delicious to my ears.
Random Access Memories. I get it. It’s a collection of sounds they liked and loved and learned during any and all phases of their lives. The presentation is simply from the perspective of worldwide superstars. Super cool. Super simple.

To sum it up: this makes me feel as if I were watching a documentary that was also some sort of dreamy rock concert. It’s about casual partying, it’s set on the West coast, we’re all dancing along to edited flashes of bouncy movement; it’s all drenched in that sunsetty pallette. And everyone’s smilin’.

Give it a shot.