The Radio Cure
Where Music Makes Friends


May 21, 2013

Album Review | Daft Punk : Random Access Memories


On album highlight “Giorgio by Moroder,” electronic music pioneer Giorgio Moroder narrates a brief history of his career. About midway through the song, just before a luscious string interlude, the legend says, “Once you free your mind about the concept of harmony and of music being ‘correct,’ you can do whatever you want.” It’s a mantra Parisian duo Daft Punk have especially taken to heart on Random Access Memories, their first album proper in 8 years.

Over that last decade or so, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter’s alter egos have had a huge hand in molding the atmosphere of contemporary pop music. But that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily pleased with the results (as they so wonderfully showcased in an upcoming Rolling Stone cover story). So what does every good space android do when returning to Earth amidst a sea of half-assed imitators? You go back in time to start over, of course!

And that’s just what the two most famous robots not created by George Lucas decided to do. Ditching the samples, reverting to late 70’s analog techniques and styles, and employing an army of guests and session musicians that perfected the likes of Off The Wall and Thriller over 30 years ago.

“For us, there’s no separation between what’s hip and what’s not,” they say in the Rolling Stone interview. Disco, prog rock, psychedelia, Broadway, and the soundtracks to old-school sci-fi film and television (TRON anyone??) are all fully represented on RAM. They WANT it to sound like the cheesy but enormously entertaining excesses of the 1970’s and early 80’s. It’s an approach that is banking on forgotten nostalgia. It’s the memory of blasting Saturday Night Fever in your friend’s sub-woofed Toyota Tacoma and being so proud that it was louder than the Limp Bizkit blasting out of the car next to you.

It’s also banking on the nostalgia for Daft Punk themselves. Not only as a band, but as two famous androids putting on a reunion variety show with an array of talented guests old and new. The experience is exponentially magnified if taken this way, similar to what made albums by Gorillaz so great. For example, when I first listened to fourth track “Within,” I imagined two dudes singing some shmaltz through a vocoder. But then I let the magic take over, and it became a beautifully innocent and meloncholly ballad from the heart of a lonely android. It’s a reminder to stop taking yourself too seriously. Even art needs to have fun now and again.

This is Warholian Pop Art at it’s very finest: An intentionally kitschy album emphasizing (with deadpan seriousness) the disposed consumer trends of an era passed. Without so much as a blink, Daft Punk are bringing a groovy prog-pop dance epic to the table, complete with adult contemporary slow jams and the dude that wrote “The Rainbow Connection.” There isn’t a weak track on the thing, and every guest soars when they take the stage (although the Pharell banger “Lose Yourself To Dance” could perhaps benefit from one less “verse” and a minute shaved off of the end). Most of your average EDM kids will probably hate it. And I think that’s kind of the point. For my money, it’s easily one of the best albums out in an already stellar year full of amazing comebacks.

Favorite Tracks: “Giorgio by Moroder,” “Within,” “Touch (feat. Paul Williams),” “Get Lucky (feat. Pharell Williams,” “Doin’ It Right (feat. Panda Bear)”

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