We knew Daft Punk were popular but the gargantuan clamour over their forthcoming new album Random Access Memories has been surprising nonetheless. It’s as if everyone turned up to a party wearing the same clothes, bringing the same booze and all offering up the same playlist. Let’s just skip the tiresome biography and skip straight to telling you how the darn thing sounds and whether it lives up to the hype.
Firstly, you’ve probably heard the Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers-featuring single “Get Lucky” a few dozen times already, such has been its ubiquity in the world of television syncing and whatnot. Rocksucker was sceptical at first but it has grown on us to the point where we’ve been singing along like an old queen. “We’ve come too far to give up who we are / Let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars”, in the words of yer man Williams, could very well be a mission statement for Random Access Memories: all those old Daft Punk hallmarks are still present and correct, and the Parisian duo have let them loose amongst an immense intergalactic disco of their own, agreeably fevered creation.
“Get Lucky” doesn’t arrive until later, though: Random Access Memories gets underway with the strutting funk groove and robot voices – see? Hallmarks – of “Give Life Back to Music”. Said robot voices even extol the virtues of “myoo-zik!”, just in case we needed that extra final confirmation that we are indeed listening to Daft Punk, and the ensuing “The Game of Love” finds our android hero crooning in a manner reminiscent of “Digital Love” from Discovery. “The Game of Love” surrounds this with clucking, twinkling electronics on its way to being a lounging, nocturnal, space-age treat; you know it’s got something about it when it elicits such a flow of descriptives, and the voyage is still in its infancy.
Italian producer/songwriter Giorgio Moroder discusses his musical philosophy over the top of “Giorgio by Moroder”, the overall effect being somehow quite dreamy with the sleek space disco slipped underneath it. It proceeds to synth up the joint à la Discovery then makes way for a luxuriously jazzy combination of electric piano and guitar, followed by a round of sparse bleepery, and then – then! – it comes crashing back in with ace rumbling drums and all sorts of other strange galactic goodies piled on top. That’s not even the end of it: a synth gun starts firing rhythmically as a wailing electric guitar enters the fray, making everyone and everything its bitch, apparently confirming that Daft Punk are back with a sonic playground as rich and banging as all the rich bangs in Bangdom (the good side of the tracks, of course).
“There’s a world inside me but I cannot explain” we are informed on the Cornelius-reminding-of “Within”, a beautifully downcast sort of robo ballad, before Julian Casablancas of The Strokes gets droided up for the mid-paced digi lament of “Instant Crush”. That’s right, folks: we just coined the term ‘robo ballad’ and immediately introduced the synonym ‘digi lament’, and we couldn’t have done it without Daft Punk.
We then get the two Pharrell numbers “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Get Lucky” sandwiching the monged, bubbling soundscape breaking into bleepy disco-funk that is “Touch”, itself touched by Paul William’s dramatically emoting vocal. Quite unexpectedly, “Touch” transforms into an ensemble of honky tonk piano, brass and string before welcoming aboard a choir and a cacophony of ascending strings, followed by fluttery electronics, more strutting drums and a classic soul string arrangement. It’s quite the sonic wonderland, we must say, even more so when “Beyond” takes a left turn into orchestral melodrama, in turn paving the way for a reversion to robot-fronted funk on “Motherboard”.
“Motherboard” is actually quite downbeat in its minor-key-dom and features the dolour-stricken interventions of pedal steel, not to mention further contributions from flute and crystalline picks of acoustic guitar. Todd Edwards features on the smooth soul of “Fragments of Time” – well, ‘smooth soul’ until its barmily tooting ‘n’ glitching chorus, that is – and Panda Bear lays his inimitably incantation-y vocal over the stuttering rhythm and rubbery groove of the fantastically effective “Doin’ It Right”, which frankly has ‘next single’ stamped all over it.
All of which leaves “Contact” to build up a real head of steam, and it’s over and out from Daft Punk. Constituent duo Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter have long bore the brunt of expectation cultivated by their seminal early albums Homework and Discovery, so it’s utterly delightful to hear them both embracing those expectations and dragging them wherever their still-fruitful muses take them. As long as that creative trajectory remains so thrillingly colourful, expansive and downright groovy, Daft Punk will always be welcome at our house (our house).
To answer the question of whether Random Access Memories lives up to the hype: yes, it does.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
Random Access Memories will be released on May 20th via Columbia Records.
For more information, please visit the official Daft Punk website.