If you care at all about dance music, you’ve listened to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories by now. And this is the 21st century, so everyone has an opinion about everything and obviously the world cares about mine.
A lot of people have referenced this Pitchfork Cover Story, saying how amazing it is, etc. But i’m sorry, I’m not buying it. To me, it strikes as hypocritical in so many ways. They talk about when musicians aren’t anonymous, “…they fall into this bourgeois, successful, settled existence,” but it’s mentioned that they’re stayed in a $3000/night estate at Coachella. That’s not bourgeois? The amount of hype around this album has been more than I can ever recall experiencing. Their mission is “to make music breathe again.” If that’s the case, wouldn’t it make more sense to, I dunno, let the music stand for itself instead of creating all of this mystery, SNL teasers, a trailer at Coachella, and these collaborators videos? I mean, you’re Daft Punk, for fuck’s sake, announcing you’re coming out with a new album created hype. You made Around the World, you put out two of the best dance albums of my lifetime. People have been rabid for a new album for years. How many different fake songs were posted to YouTube claiming to be new Daft Punk only to be debunked (several of which were, sadly, better than anything on RAM)?
Also, they talk about how they aren’t impressed with current electronic music? This just seems reductive (to quote, one of the least innovative musicians, at least lately). I’m with you bros, EDM is anything but impressive and / or innovative, but I mean c’mon that’s not all that’s out there. Have you heard Four Tet’s Pink or Daphini’s Jiaolong (just to name two)? You can’t tell me there’s no good dance / electronic music out there. And if that’s what you are saying, you guys *are* the innovators, how is going back to the sound of the 70’s doing anything new / useful for the supposed current, sad state of electronic music?
When I first heard the 15 seconds of the vocodered “Get Lucky” SNL ad I was hopeful / excited. And then after the 1 minute Coachella version I was slightly less hopeful / excited. Finally the album leaked yesterday and was subsequently put on iTunes to stream. My initial reactions consisted of, “too many guitars,” “is this 70’s prog rock” and finally culminated with my jaw literally dropping when the saxophone comes in on “Touch.” (My jaw really did drop, I don’t mean this in the over-used intensifier way)
There are a few moments where I feel as though things kind of work. Part of “Giorgio by Morder” works, but parts of it are cringeworthy. “Lose Yourself to Dance” is maybe the song I dislike the least when taken as a whole. “Contact” kind of works, but nothing on the album has staying power; there’s no track that doesn’t have some part of it that I don’t like and Touch is almost unlistenable.
I think the reason I find this so upsetting is that Homework was the first non-commercial radio album that I ever owned. It was my gateway to all of the music that I listen to now. It changed what I listened to from that point on. In the 90s, I listened to whatever was on the radio and growing up in Maine, nowhere near a large college / university, we didn’t have an innovative college radio station. It was Top 40, commercial programming or nothing.
I still remember who introduced me to Daft Punk. It was my girlfriend’s friend (you know, back in those days), who was, and probably still is, infinitely cooler than I was. I don’t remember what she said about the album, but I do remember standing in her parent’s basement in Central Maine in the winter of 1998 (yeah, I was a year late) when she handed me a cassette and told me that I had to listen to this album. I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I’ve listened to that album since. Sure there were more innovative electronic artists at the time, but this was the album that opened up a new world of music to me. Not only that, but it’s good, I mean, Around the World is one of the best song / video combinations out there.
I guess i should have seen this coming. Human After All was pretty lackluster and the Tron: Legacy Soundtrack was, outside of Derezzed, completely forgettable. As this Flavowire piece states, It’s been over a decade since they’ve put out a decent album. And maybe we’ll never get another one. I guess I still need a little more time to grieve.