If you have any access to the Internet, then you know who Daft Punk is. You also probably know that these French EDM kings are responsible for “One More Time”, an irresistibly fun classic that has made hundreds of EDM haters say, “Ok, some EDM is good.” Only Skrillex is the other internationally recognizable face of EDM, and Daft Punk has been around since EDM was actually “Electronic Dance Music” rather than Dubstep, which only the latter is famous for. You probably also know that Daft Punk has a new album out. Random Access Memories to be specific, and it has become one of the most talked about releases in a year full of big releases (Vampire Weekend, My Bloody Valentine, and now Kanye West just to name a few).
So Random Access Memories is another EDM party album that’s full of songs that are as fun as “One More Time” right? Wrong. Random Access Memories is a 70s and 80s dance influenced record made with minimal electronics and all living musicians. Depending on your perspective, Random Access Memories could be seen as a rejection of the current EDM scene, which both Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter (those are the robots by the way) have openly criticized. But what is probably happening here is that the album isn’t so much a rejection of modern EDM as it is an educational or tribute album to the origins of EDM; on Random Access Memories the robots don’t want to make you dance so much as they want you to know who Giorgio Moroder is.
Is the latest by the legendary French duo a well-marketed gimmick, or do they still know what they’re doing, and is there anything on here as timeless as “One More Time”? Read on.
Giorgio – The big elephant in the room is “Giorgio By Moroder”, the nine minute talking bit by legendary Italian dance producer Giorgio Moroder (he collaborated on classics such as Donna Summer’s “Love To Love You Baby” and Blondie’s “Call Me”). Throughout the track Giorgio discusses his beginnings of his career and his success with dance music, and the track evolves to include more styles of music to accompany Giorgio’s evolution of his career. If anything, Daft Punk has reintroduced the legendary producer to a new generation and has nicely showcased the evolution of dance music from the 70s and 80s. It’s a good history lesson, but it’s an awkward bit that goes a little too long too early in the album. It also doesn’t help that “Giorgio By Moroder” is followed by the album’s weakest track “Within”.
Collaboration – Including Giorgio, Random Access Memories may possibly have the great collaboration team of any album of any genre in recent memory. The list includes Panda Bear (“Doin’ It Right”), Pharrell Williams (“Get Lucky”, “Lose Yourself To Dance”), and Julian Casablancas (Who absolutely kills it on “Instant Crush”, my favorite track off the album). If Random Access Memories is one of the best sounding albums of 2013, it’s because they had some of the best help available.
Uneven – There are some fantastic songs on Random Access Memories, but they are all spread out and seperated by songs that either go on too long (“Within”) or are unforgettable (“Touch”, “Beyond”). Every song sounds great, but not all of them are memorable. The songs work together to form a coherent album, but because this feels like an educational album there is a lack of urgency to make you want to dance, which is what these guys are known for.
Overall: Daft Punk’s overall goal for Random Access Memories could be summarized by Giorgio on “Giorgio by Moroder”: “I wanted to do an album with the sound of the 50s, the sound of the 60s, of the 70s and then have a sound of the future”. Random Access Memories is a well crafted tribute to the origins of EDM music that sounds modern, created by the most recognizable faces of EDM. In the end this actually makes sense, because you can’t spell “Electronic Dance Music” without “Dance”.
Essential Tracks: “Give Life Back To Music”, “Instant Crush”, “Get Lucky”
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber