Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Label: Daft Life/ Columbia Records
Release Date: May 17, 2013
There’s no denying that Daft Punk have had a sizable impact on the electronic music genre. In fact, there may be no other electronic artist that has simultaneously reshaped pop music and dance culture more so than the great Daft Punk. With the incredible resurgence of electronic dance music over the past few years, what was once considered dance music, is now no more. And the lines between pop music and electronic music have almost been completely eradicated. However, the EDM (electronic dance music) genre has taken a huge hit over the past year or so and is quickly sinking into an oblivion of cookie cutter beat drops and progressively lacking originality, though it’s popularity remains at an all time high. So one has to ask… does EDM need saving? Taking that question even further… is the return of Daft Punk that catalyst? Fear not… Random Access Memories holds the answer.
It’s been 8 years since we’ve had what one would consider a “proper” album from Daft Punk. In between we were treated to the Tron: Legacy Soundtrack which featured some great material… however it was not Daft Punk in the traditional sense, nor was it an album in the traditional sense. But finally, after much waiting and anticipation, they have made their return... and it’s been a long time since 2005. Pop and dance music have undoubtedly evolved a great deal over those years. Needless to say, it should be interesting observing the inevitable changes that will take place in the years to come and Random Access Memories is sure to play a big role in those changes. So how’s the album?
Eclectic would be a fitting adjective for this ambitious artistic undertaking. Even before hitting play on track 1, a simple glance at the names involved with the album is all you need to get your ears excited. From The Stroke’s Julian Casablancas, to pop music monster Pharrell, to electronic music pioneer Giorgio Moroder, this album is littered with big names… and I’ve only mentioned just a few. Combining this impressive lineup, featured over 13 tracks with the crazy anticipation of Daft Punk’s return, RAM has a lot on its shoulders. Can it deliver?
“Give Life Back To Music” is the first track off the album and its title couldn’t be more appropriate. The song features an assortment of instruments layered over one another to create a funky, disco vibe that’s been all too absent from the dance music scene as of late. Add in some interesting vocoder work and suddenly you’ve got your dancing shoes on. While the song’s structure is fairly straight forward and features no real progression, it remains interesting enough throughout to keep you listening and dancing as well.
It’s become evident that Daft Punk seem to resent the direction in which electronic music is heading. With this album, Daft Punk are attempting to erode the predictable template in which electronic music currently resides and for the most part, they succeed. The third track featured on RAM titled Giorgio By Moroder features, you guessed it, Giorgio Moroder. The song begins with a subtle dance beat played behind a monologue by Giorgio himself, reflecting upon the early days of his electronic music adventure and the “sound of the future” known as the synthesizer. It quickly evolves into an entirely new song that features dancy synth lines, funky bass work, and an epic bridge complete with an entire string section. This is a massive track that includes a fairly interchangeable song structure… A Daft Punk tour de force of sorts.
My personal favorite from the album is the fifth track which features Julian Casablancas, titled “Instant Crush.” In short; it’s a pop masterpiece. Dancy, consistently interesting with a powerhouse, electronic vocal hook, it’s one hell of a song. There’s an emphasis on layering that Daft Punk has always been known for, but it’s even more apparent with the interchangeability of the synth parts versus the lightly distorted 80s guitar work. How all the instruments interact with one another on this track is an astonishing accomplishment and it will be sure to get you out of your seat and dancing in no time.
I could go on and on about how impressive some of these tracks are. “Lose Yourself To Dance” which features another Pharrell sighting, is another album highlight. As well as the massive, eclectic ”Touch” and the dance floor beast known as “Get Lucky.” So by now you must be wondering… is it all good? Not quite.
Unfortunately the 9th and 10th tracks off the album (“Beyond” and “Motherboard”) fail to deliver anything spectacular. While not terrible, they’re fairly bland and maybe a bit too familiar to be considered album highlights. They seem to drag on and on with no real destination or purpose. I hesitate to use the word “filler” but they are certainly flirting with that classification. It’s a bit of an awkward section of Random Access Memories but thankfully it is quickly remedied by a very strong trio of closing tracks, especially the indie-dance goodness of “Doin’ It Right” and the epic album closer “Contact.”
With Daft Punk’s return, they have achieved something that’s proven to be extremely rare throughout music history. They may have very well saved the electronic genre while progressing EDM in a respectable and refreshing manner that hints to earlier dance genres like funk and disco. After a recent bevy of unoriginal, uninspired, cookie cutter electronic releases, Daft Punk’s return has come at the right time and I think that adds to the spectacle that is this group. While Random Access Memories will probably fall short for the average EDM fan, others that enjoy all the genre has to offer will undoubtedly take to it. Overall, this album is an impressive display of talent while simultaneously progressing a stale genre into the future by drawing on influences from the past. The eclectic lineup featured, as well as the broad range of influences found over these 13 tracks has prompted one last question to ponder… Is the future of dance music in the past? Daft Punk seems thinks so… and I think so.