Music Review: Daft Punk: Random Access Memories (2013)


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Yes it’s finally here, what must be the most anticipated album of 2013 has reached it’s release, and boy is Daft Punk’s latest release, ‘Random Access Memories’, a game-changer, and for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it expands on the irrepressible feel-good sound of the first craftily released track and worldwide hit, ‘Get Lucky’, bringing not just the same sound again and again, but a variety of tunes, with everything from electronic instruments, to guitars, over to drum machines and actual drums, everything you could think of! Then come the guest stars, Pharell Williams, producer and rapper that enlightened the world with his falsetto vocals in ‘Get Lucky’, appears on a couple of tracks, the best on the album in my view, Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers provides a few riffs here and there that evoke his past work, in a great way. ‘The Strokes’ frontman Julian Casablancas, brings a slice of his band’s new electro sound to the table, and a duo of legendary producers, Giorgio Moroder and Paul Williams, are thrown in for good mixture, which all in all adds to a considerable mixture of talents and sound, but the French duo, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter pull it off, just.

What the listener gets is quite far from what one may have expected going into the album, and whilst there are a couple of duds, songs that on the first few listens of the album don’t really strike a chord with myself, overall the quality is high, both production-wise and of the actual song. To put it simply, this is the best-sounding, album I’ve heard in an age, and so you’d expect given that it took the duo over 5 years to craft together. But everything is put together like a perfect jigsaw, every piece and sound is carefully slotted in together, to create some masterful songs, that sound timeless, not aged, but carrying DNA strands from eras gone by, but then neither are they distinctively modern-day tracks, it’s strange to hear.

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Kicking off with opener, the great, ‘Give Life Back to Music’, is just a hint of what sounds are to come. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s out of control, but, most importantly, it sets the tone just right with its keys, interesting riff, beat and electronic ‘android’ voice, that Daft Punk are known for. This voice, fits the song completely, something which isn’t always the case in this album, that’s for sure. But the further the song progresses, the more entertaining it becomes, sounding care-free and a slice of happiness, again another theme that is evident in some songs, probably why this is released just before the Summer time.

It’s strange then, that the next song ‘The Game of Love’, is a strange mess of a song. It loses the momentum and pure catchiness (if that’s a word), of the opener, and just drifts with a grating robotic vocal, that I really dislike. It serves as a reminder that not everything Daft Punk touch, changes to gold. Next, is a piece of spoken word music, something I’m still divisive over, ‘Giorgio by Moroder’. It’s really weird, the producer simply talking over a developing dance riff, that eventually takes over, as he runs out of steam discussing his life, how he began to make music and why. I’m not sure if it’s Daft Punk’s interpretation of his dreams, or what, but it’s such a strange song to put third on your big album…

Then pops up another melodramatic slice of music, ‘Within’, which features another horrible electronic vocal. I don’t get the obsession with such instruments, as to me, it just sounds off-key and ill-fitting, given how good quality the rest of the production is on the album, and the music created, this all just lets it down for me, personally. So far, so average, right? Well, things begin to pick up with the introduction of Casablancas, on ‘Instant Crush’, a song that lays down the foundations for the album’s excellent middle part. Whilst his vocals, are just fine, but much, much better than the awful vocals of the past couple of songs, the song works well, incorporating a slice of Casablancas’ most recent ‘Strokes’, album’s sound in too. It’s very 80’s, and is a capable song, mainly included to act as a warm-up for my favourite song on the album.

Lose Yourself to Dance’, is a song that had a similar effect to me as ‘Get Lucky’, and they are both tunes which share very similar DNA. Both feature Pharell Williams on falsetto vocals, both have a funky riff from Nile Rodgers and both evoke pure happiness throughout. It’s almost impossible not to want to dance to either of them, and whilst they may be simplistic songs, in terms of lyrics, they don’t pretend to be anything other than a slice of fun. There’s no pretentiousness here, it’s all sunshine and cool music. It’s almost as if both of these songs have been transported directly from the era they are evoking such is the level of production, almost like a cover band, but obviously a very high quality cover band. As everyone on the planet knows what ‘Get Lucky’, sounds like by now, check out ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’, below and see for yourself! [EDIT: It’s a slightly slowed down version as the other got removed, but you might get the point!]

Sandwiched inbetween the two tunes of the summer, is ‘Touch’, another classy, epic song. But it feels like it goes on for just a ‘touch’ (geddit?!) too long, and the same could be said for many of the songs on the album. But the vocals of Paul Williams, are reminiscent of the late Johnny Cash, a man coming towards the end of his life, whose vocals are full of emotion and experience, it’s a delight. As I say, the song itself whittles on a little bit too long, but it’s just the filling in a cracking Pharell sandwich.

After, ‘Get Lucky’, comes the song with a Pokemon-esque start (that might just be me though), ‘Beyond’. Beginning with orchestral strings, before divulging into yet more of the robo-voice, which isn’t quite as grating as previously, but you just feel like shouting to the two of them, “Get some normal voices!”. It all just smacks a bit of filler, with some nice instrumentals that don’t amount to too much other than showing the range of this genre-spinning LP yet again. ‘Motherboard’, is a little bit the same, a nice few orchestral bit, a rambling little drum beat, accompanied by hints of a guitar riff, with washes of the ‘Tron Legacy’, soundtrack vibes that the two created a few years ago. It’s nice and chilled out, before going all electronica at the end. A highlight.

Fragments of Time’, sees my one real spot of hatred that runs throughout this album, the robo-voice, disappear, in favour of Todd Edwards’, a man who’s collaborated with the duo before, dulcet tones. It’s a nice song, just nice though, verging on cheesy territory  with it’s extended electro-riff solo’s, just  nothing revolutionary, but it makes you think what more could have been done with a few more normal vocals, on songs that have such good instrumentals. ‘Doin’ it Right’, is another favourite of mine, the beat is nice and the vocals manage to entertain, if not annoy. It’s RnB roots shine through with the combo of that and the trademark Daft Punk sound an intriguing one. ‘Animal Collective’ man, Panda Bear, joins the party for this song, with his distinctive vocals taking over from the ‘robots’. It amounts to a catchy, if at times, disjointed 4 minutes, but it’s a nice ride.

And finally, closer to this epic, weird piece of music is, ‘Contact’. It’s a track which makes you wonder whether these two are human at all. Starting with an excerpt from a space flight, it dips and dives with its electro beats and proper drum beats, melding the two together, as the whole album does with various different sounds. It all amounts to a cacophony of noise that is a satisfying end to what I think may well be a divisive album amongst fans, music lovers and the public in general.

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With the release of ‘Get Lucky’, and various teasers, came an expectation that Daft Punk’s latest LP would change music, with innovative sounds, but noone had a clue what it would sound like, hence why some may be disappointed. For now, I’m on the fence. As you can see from my review, I actually am more negative about the album, than wholly positive, but maybe it’s because I wanted ‘Get Lucky’, x13, which was never going to happen. I’m happy to see the duo have such great success with that song in particular, and hopefully this album, which I still WANT to listen to, a week after I heard it for the first time, and one that I sense will be a grower, just for now, I’m lukewarm on it.

For now: 7/10.


One thought on “Music Review: Daft Punk: Random Access Memories (2013)

  1. What an insightful, well-thought-out piece of bloggery! 😀 I listened to this album several times while on a business trip to Colorado, and was astounded by the mix of genres present in the album. I do agree that a couple of songs fall flatter than the others, the ones I enjoy– I REALLY enjoy. I know this will be a quick buy for me once I set up my new iPod!

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