The robots have taken over. With dystopian visions, Daft Punk’s fourth studio album hears Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Cristo fall deeper into their android narrative – which now threatens their human heritage.
Daft Punk used to appear 80% posh French musicians and 20% bristling machines. In 2013 these ratios feel inverted, as we discover robots desperately trying to recreate the warmth of emotional, human music. ‘Random Access Memories’ is numerous galaxies away from being a great album.
This is despite the epic sum of its monumental parts. Mr. Disco himself, Nile Rodgers, garage producer Todd Edwards, Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, Pharrell Williams, Julian Casablancas, Chilly Gonzales and even The Muppets’ songwriter Paul Williams are all plugged into the Daft Punk mainframe.
The reality, though, is that aside from a few beautiful passages of disco reverence, ‘Random Access Memories’ confuses, disappoints and grates. Lead single ‘Get Lucky’ (audio below), which smashed Spotify’s record for its most intensely streamed track, is one of the highlights. The lowlights are dim.
A Giorgio Moroder track (‘Giorgio By Moroder’) puzzles with a two-minute monologue as he chats about sleeping in his car in the 1970s. Later, album closer ‘Contact’ is an aggressive mess of ascending rocket noises, proggy processed guitars and the stilted banter of Apollo astronauts. ‘Revolution 909’ or ‘Alive’ it is not.
‘Touch’, perhaps the album’s crux, appears as a nightmarish space opera that sounds like it’s been penned by a delusional Metal Mickey thinking he’s Andrew Lloyd Webber, soliloquising about craving to be “touched” before he gets drowned under big band breakdowns and Broadway insinuations.
Pharrell’s Jacko homage on ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’ props things up a tad, whilst Panda Bear’s spoken words over sparse bass on ‘Doin’ It Right’ are a breath of fresh air near the end of the 13 tracks.
But it’s mainly down to Nile Rodgers to supply what thrust we find. The pure disco manna that flows from his funk-drenched fingers stops this bloated road show from sinking under alien seas of molten cheese.
‘Random Access Memories’ acutely highlights the Disneyfication of Daft Punk. They’ve evolved away from simply making great dance music and now appear a long voyage from the dangerously seductive material that first entranced a fanbase, eager to be schooled further on French Touché sounds.
This set is too malformed to detain an attention like ‘Homework’ could. Lifelong fans will need more grit, more edge to cling to than what’s offered here. Bring back the blood!
Words: Matthew Bennett
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