May 30 2013
Photo Credit: David Black/Courtesy of the artist
It’s already been decided that Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories is a profound masterpiece, and I’m just here to add to that consensus. Some fans of classic Daft Punk may air their grievances over the fact that this album is drastically different from any of the duo’s previous work, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And with the stellar crew of guest artists including Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Panda Bear from Animal Collective, songwriting legend Paul Williams, and the eponymous Pharrell, as well as some amazing session work from the likes of Nile Rodgers and Paul Jackson Jr. on guitar, Nathan East and James Genus on bass, and Omar Hakim and John Robinson on drums, there is just an absolute plethora of musicianship to study, appreciate, and simply immerse oneself into.
What really makes this album interesting is how the pair has delved back into the past to give rebirth to the catchy disco, funk, and prog-rock themes of the 1970s and 80s and make them sound just as interesting as ever. This may really turn some people off, especially electronic traditionalists, but as a closet disco fan, I appreciate the hell out of it. I can’t get enough of that chicken scratch guitar, syncopated bass line, and four-on-the-floor drum beats with sixteenth notes on the hi-hat that open up on the off-beats, and when a little latin flavor is added, it’s just icing on the cake. There’s already been a noticeable resurgence of disco influence in today’s pop music, and if Daft Punk helps to herald in a complete return of the genre to nightclubs with this record, I would not mind a bit. The tracks “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Get Lucky” are new-age disco classics, especially with how beautiful Pharrell’s voice sounds. I really hope that if he ever releases a second solo album, that it’s an all out disco and funk one.
That’s not to say that Random Access Memories is completely devoid of any synthesized elements. Daft Punk still includes some really interesting keyboard work and those quintessential vocoded, robotic voices. These components are most notable on “The Game of Love”, which makes use of some dope robo-vibratto, and “Motherboard” which utilizes some futuristic snyth in an almost orchestral arrangement. Furthermore, the final track “Contact” may promise more space-age themed material to come from the group for those who might worry.
The only qualm I have with this album is that at times, it can seem a bit too cinematic and the songs tend to just drag after awhile. This especially evident of “Touch”. As cool as it is, the eight minute runtime is a little too long, and the song feels as though it should be paired with something visual in nature. Maybe we’ll get a voyeuristic music video some time in the near future.
In conclusion, Random Access Memories is an utter Daft Punk masterpiece, even if it is a bit out of character for the two. So the next time you find yourself wondering what to do for the next hour and 15 minutes, put on this record and unleash your inner Tony Manero.