As a former DJ it’s only natural that I would have been excited about a new album from Daft Punk regardless of the amount of pomp and circumstance that has surrounded it.
Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter make up Daft Punk and I’ve been listening, and playing, their music for many years. Bangalter is probably the most well-known, and spoken, of the two and has released records outside of Daft Punk.
The hype around the French duo’s latest album, Random Access Memories, has been something to behold. The trouble with hype is that things very rarely live up to it.
The album kicks off with Give Life Back to Music, something the duo have said the album is all about; a return to non-typical dance music (sorry EDO as it seems to be getting called these days). Give Life Back to Music is a good example of a Daft Punk track with their signature vocoder singing throughout. However it’s much more of a disco affair then we’ve had previously with legendary Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers providing a rather tasty lick over the top.
Following the upbeat disco-ness we enter The Game of Love which is a slowed down, Moroder-esq track but still with the Daft Punk vocoder vocals. This track has Café del Mar chill-out music written all over it.
Track three starts with an interview from Italian dance maestro Giorgio Moroder. Giorgio by Moroder kicks in with Moroder still talking about making music, a brief ‘click’ respite whilst the man says who he is and then we’re into a Daft Punk vs Giorgio Moroder track and it’s everything you’d expect and slightly Tron-esq in style. Mid-way through we break down into something altogether more funky before we drop back into the more driving rhythms and Moroder talking again. But it’s perhaps the end of the track that stands out for me. It has some devastatingly funky bass guitar over some mean record scratching and drum playing. It’s just dying to be played loud!
As we slow things down once more we enter track four titled Within. This is perhaps my least favourite track on the album. It’s a slow lumbering, though short, love song with the now familiar vocoder vocals over the top.
Track five sees strokes frontman Julian Casablancas entering the fray with Instant Crush. It’s a nice song and picks up as it goes along with some funky bass guitar entering alongside some keyboards. The chorus is where it really kicks, dropping back down after each time, except the final one. I can imagine there will be some good remixes of this released when the time comes.
There’s no doubting when the next track starts. Lose Yourself to Dance feat. Pharrell Williams kicks off with some sub-woofer shaking bass and a funky Chic-esq guitar over the top before Pharrell begins to sing. The song itself is a slow, head-shaking, foot-tapping, funky tune that works well; you certainly won’t be sitting still listening to it.
Touch feat. Paul Williams starts slowly and build and builds. You can sense the kick coming but they keep you waiting and waiting and oh my word is it worth it! In fact the wait is so good that you’ll be tempted to restart the track once again to hear the drop as some awesome jazz-funk piano playing kicks in with a fantastic drum and wind ensemble all beginning at the same time. We break later whilst the vocoders are back and then we build and build and build before…it sounds like it’s stopped. But then Williams sings almost acapella and we drop into… Get Lucky feat. Pharrell Williams. The track you all know and the first to be released as a single.
Track nine, Beyond, begins with a seriously fantastic orchestral piece, something that sounds astonishing on a good, large setup. It’s a shame the duo don’t do much with it beyond the intro because I can definitely see it being picked up in a remix, official or otherwise. The track itself is a synth led slow, melodic thing, another for the Café del Mar crew.
Motherboard is up next, an instrumental that has some pretty damn fine drum playing going on throughout whilst some floaty synths and keyboards keep the momentum. Not a bad little tune at all.
US American house producer Todd Edwards provides the vocals for Fragments of Time. The track is similar to the previous hit track Edwards did with Daft Punk, Face to Face, although a bit more laid back in its approach, picking up later when some guitar/vocoder kick in as an interlude. A really nice track that will have you singing along.
Next up Panda Bear enters the scene with Doin’ It Right. Personally I’m not a massive fan of Mr. Bear and this track is a little slow and by the numbers for me. It feels like I’m being patronised, like it’s saying “now listen to this beat, followed by this beat, well done, here’s another for you ok?”
The final track on the album is called Contact and begins with an astronaut’s message back to HQ about ‘something out there’. That something is probably the sheer force of this track as Daft Punk unleash absolutely everything they have at you in a crescendo or drums, synths, bleeps and everything else before we break and end with an increasing distorted drum sound.
There seems to be a mixed reaction to the album on the message boards from the listening masses but personally I think it’s fantastic. It’s a new direction for Daft Punk, something much more disco and funky and yet they manage to keep their sound throughout. It’s not perfect, what albums are these days, but it kicks when you want and lets you breath when you need.