In 1992 old Tom Bangalter and Guy-Man de Homem-Christo were in a band called Darlin' with that dude from Phoenix. It was a shoddy attempt at paying homage (said in a very thick French accent) to The Beach Boys, have a listen below if you don't believe me.
Melody Maker poignantly described the single as, to paraphrase, "a load of daft punk shite". We all know what happened next.
20 years and a whole generation of house music later, Daft Punk have freshly defecated their most eagerly anticipated LP: Random Access Memories. Let's establish that Daft Punk are synonymous with, initially, Chicago House and, latterly, French House. Black Eyed Peas were big dawgs in the hip hop playground. But then Will.i.am went and did this and then this and for some reason this. To compare, Daft Punk have gone and made tracks such as 'Instant Crush' and 'Fragments of Time'. The album's about as far removed from debut Homework and 2005's Human After All as you can get and instead sounds more like two old men trying to recreate Discovery without the use of samples. Let's not forget, Tom and Guy-Man are both approaching their forties and it's clear that they've reached a point in their careers where they want to give dad rock a crack. Hang on, wasn't Randon Access Memories meant to be disco? The biggest disco album since disco ball-shaped sliced bread? The album is about as disco as a packet of cheese and onion crisps. Oh well.
'Give Life Back to Music' - right yes, here we go this should get the party started! Oh. We should have known after the first 16 seconds of the record that it would reflect the following 4440. This is confirmed a further 30 seconds later when some rather weak vocoder vocals disturb hand claps, funky Nile Rodgers guitar riffs and a warm, inviting bassline.
'The Game of Love' has subtle echoes of 'Digital Love' and 'Something About Us' and is sort of sexual and sensual but at this point I'm starting to wonder how much vocoder there is going to be throughout the 74 minutes. Maybe they'll vocoder this Giorgio Moroder monologue we've all been waiting to hear. Not this time, it's just his miscellaneous continental European accent. I have to admit I was hoping for an epic Jeff Bridge's "...I got in" moment from TRON but instead we're left with the godfather of electronic music waffling on about having a threesome with his zynzerzizers in the back of his car. Yes we have 9 minutes of Moroder, OK 7 and a half minus the moment of dementia. Maybe it'll be another 'Too Long'? No, it's half vintage Moroder and half Propellorheads B-side.
Chilly Gonzales then suggests that the French have lost their romantic je ne sais quoi. As suspected, 3/4 of the album is dominated by vocoder at this point. The song isn't very arousing and leaves a bit of a garlicy taste in the mouth. The less said about 'Instant Crush' the better. This is probably the marmite song of the album, some will love Julian Casablancas' contribution, others will think it sounds like another wanky soft-rock-meets-pop single rolled out by The Strokes post-Is This It. Please don't drag Daft Punk down with you, Julian.
'Lose Yourself To Dance' offers some relief from a shady 10 minutes. It announces itself with Pharrell giving us some 'throwback' 70's vocals juxtaposed by yet more vocoders, albeit ones that climax very effectively in a HBFS style. You can dance to it! Fading out to some echoey, futuristic synth pads that would happily sit well on an early Air album introduce 'Touch'. Paul Williams completely ruins this track. Starting off sounding like Frank the bunny from Donnie Darko, he then bizarrely turns into Hugh Jackman from Les Mis. All sorts of stuff is going on with this track; it tries too many things. One minute it's ambiance in deep space, the next it's a cheesy Disney razzamatazz. The strings and choir are nice at the end though.
I prefer the radio edit of 'Get Lucky'. The intro and outro to 'Beyond' and entirety of 'Motherboard' will please those who loved the TRON OST synth. It can't be a coincidence that these are the two most genuine tracks on the album and had no production assistance. The former utilises the vocoder to its full potential and, echoed by strings and a slide guitar, makes for a lovely song. I love Todd Edwards but, mate, stick to chopping edits. 'Fragments of Time' is no Face to Face and by far the worst or as the American's would put it 'most goofy' track on RAM.
I like 'Doin' it Right' featuring Panda Bear of Animal Collective. It's Daft Punk's most contemporary track on the album. Imagine The Beach Boys giving downtempo R&B a go. Random Access Memories concludes with a collaboration with old chum DJ Falcon. It's French. It's very French. The opening minute is anyway. It could be anyone from DatA, Danger, Air, Sebastian Tellier or Justice. Or all of them in a room trying to fix two malfunctioning robots. None of them have a Phillips head screwdriver though and end up throwing together another Propellorheads live breakbeat with Rollin' & Scratchin' thrown in for good measure.
I've just finished my third listen of the album. I think this is enough listens to give a rational opinion on what I've just heard. My conclusion is that, on the whole, I can't help but feel disappointed like I'm sure a lot of passionate Daft Punk fans feel at this moment. I want to be optimistic and say "I don't like it yet" and fool myself into thinking that I might warm to it after a further 50 playbacks. It did take me half a dozen to really appreciate the vibe of 'Get Lucky'. The truth is I will never love this album anywhere near as much as Discovery. I believe that those claiming this is a 'breath-taking', even 'flawless' album are in denial. For sure, Random Access Memories took my breath away, but for all the wrong reasons.
McMess (see you in another year...)