Classic Albums: Daft Punk – Homework

Still as fresh, relevant and resonant as it was fifteen years ago

We’ll always find romance in the retrospective, conveniently forgetting the flaws and removing the rough-edges, but where Britain was buoyantly flouncing and bouncing to a decidedly Britpop beat, across the channel, another French uprising was brewing.

Part of a group of Gallic artists that would successfully lay the foundation and set the electro soundtrack for the next decade – Air, Cassius, Etienne De Crecy, Ivan Smagghe and Alex Gopher all get honourable mentions – Daft Punk were put firmly at the forefront of it all in 1997 courtesy of ‘Homework’.

In a sea of red carnations, lad culture and Ocean Colour Scene, ‘Homework’ offered the smallest glint of alternative salvation; beams of hope refracting off two metallic heads, mirrored in visors, reproduced in LEDs. Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter looked like they were sent from some Skynet future, and they might as well have been, because ‘Homework’ is still as fresh, relevant and resonant as it was fifteen years ago.

Admittedly a collection of standalone singles, it’s an album that goes much deeper than the gratifying accessibility of ‘Around The World’ and ‘Da Funk’. Built on a consistently clean 4/4 beat and an intolerably funky 120BPM, this was the sound of the scene; of the city; of the raucous underground spilling into the streets. However you tagged or referred to it (French house/touch house/funk/rave), ‘Homework’ was the accessible entry point for a burgeoning movement on the cusp of splitting the mainstream seam.

With elements of electro, funk, acid and techno and nods to the fathers of Detroit techno and Chicago house, ‘Homework’ is the seminal party album, busy pulling in something for everyone and consummately pulling it all together. You can hear the embryonic stages of Justice; the foundations of Busy P’s wild Ed Banger collective; the inspiration for the all-conquering James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem that gave the next generation of hipster glitterati a suitably retro point of reference.

Compared to the requisite polish of ‘Discovery’ and ‘Human After All’ what made, and makes, ‘Homework’ essential is that it retains all the raw, reckless rave elements of its time. Where the latter marked Daft Punk’s entrenchment in the mainstream (no bad thing), on ‘Homework’, tracks like ‘Revolution 909’ were used to literal, political effect, amplifying the French government’s negative attitude to the house scene, replete with blaring siren, megaphone and politicised video that recreated a police drug raid. It encapsulates ‘Homework’’s relentlessness energy; from the pounding, seemingly infinite brutality of ‘Rollin’ & Scratchin’’ to the equally primal ‘Alive’ there’s dissatisfaction and discordance, tension and excitement, escape and an enlivening sense of the unknown, but it was Daft Punk’s unerring, effortless ability to transpose that aggression onto irresistibly danceable beats that made ‘Homework’ special.

And where ‘Around The World’ arguably cast an early, envious eye at global stardom, the ‘High Fidelity’ sound of summer Pete Heller and David Morales dined out on, the seared circuitry of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’, the stop-start, offbeat playfulness of ‘Oh Yeah’, the Mylo-aped ‘Teachers’, they all set a minefield of referential benchmarks for everyone that followed.

And every time James Murphy launches into his unrequited ode of ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’, even fifteen years on, he could still be talking about any one of us.

Words by Reef Younis


Released: January 17th 1997
Producer: Daft Punk
Musicians: Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Thomas Bangalter

1. ‘Daftendirekt’
2. ‘WDPK 83.7 FM’
3. ‘Revolution 909’
4. ‘Da Funk’
5. ‘Phoenix’
6. ‘Fresh’
7. ‘Around The World’
8. ‘Rollin’ & Scratchin’’
9. ‘Teachers’
10. ‘High Fidelity’
11. ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’
12. ‘Oh Yeah’
13. ‘Burnin’’
14. ‘Indo Silver Club’
15. ‘Alive’
16. ‘Funk Ad’

1997: The Albums
Jamiroquai – ‘Travelling Without Moving’
David Bowie – ‘Earthling’
Blur – ‘Blur’
U2 – ‘Pop’

1997: In The News
Scientists revealed the world’s first cloned sheep, named Dolly.
The Hale-Bopp comet passed its closest to Earth.
Timothy McVeigh is sentenced to death for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings.
The rapper Notorious B.I.G. is shot and murdered.

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