French Electronic duo Daft Punk released their fourth studio album in 2013 which was fronted by lead single “Get Lucky” which became the years massive hit.
The album itself was given widespread acclaim as Daft Punk incorporated as many styles of music into this set as they possibly could.
Whilst a departure in some ways to their previous sound there was still enough on here for long time Daft Punk fans to sink their teeth into whilst also appealing to a completely new market with some extremely fresh sounding songs.
Daft Punk essentially made an album that reinvented themselves once again. With few people knowing what the duo actually look like due to their insistence of wearing their trademark Robot helmets they ensure that they cannot age and Daft Punk look the same from the early days. It’s a simply but very clever marketing tool which they have used to great effect.
I believe Daft Punk have produced a really brilliant piece of work with “Random Access Memories”. As a soul/funk/disco music fan this album pushes all the right buttons as it retains a familiar structure but it sounds new and something I haven’t heard before.
“Give Life Back To Music” is the first track and its a superb opener. It’s got that bit of over the top epicness that sets the tone for the rest of the album which I find quite theatrical at times.
The guitar playing on this track is from the ever so talented Nile Rodgers of Chic fame and super producer to the likes of David Bowie and Madonna. It’s a typical Nile Rodgers rift that plays through the track with the vocals simply expressing a desire to give life back to music.
The flow that the big funky opener delivered is somewhat stalled by the second track “Game Of Love” which is a mid tempo smooth funk track which certainly expresses a lot of emotions. What is interesting about the track is that through the vocoder vocals the song does feel like it is being sung by something from another planet. Yet whilst this should in theory disconnect you from any feeling for the lyrics it does the opposite as there is something sad and hollow about this entity singing about lost love.
“Giorgio By Moroder” is simply a tribute to the legendary super producer Giorgio Moroder. It’s not just a tribute, its the story of his early days narrated by Moroder himself. The opening few minutes of the song is simply Moroder singing over this funk rift about how he started in music and his use of the synthesizer. Once Moroder ends his monologue the song bursts into a synth wet dream as it just mesmerizises you with this tune that whilst overly long just stays in your head.
Moroder does come back into the song around the 5 minute mark and simply says:
“Once you want to free your mind about a concept of harmony and music being correct, you can do whatever you want.
So nobody told me what to do and there was no preconception of what to do.”
“Within” begins with this beautiful piano solo. It’s classical tone remains throughout and if you put this song on you wouldn’t really associate it with Daft Punk. It is no way a dance song but again like “Game Of Love” the use of the vocoder just adds this science fiction element that sounds like an Alien robot is singing his confused heart out.
“There are so many things that I don’t understand
There’s a world within me that I cannot explain
Many rooms to explore, but the doors look the same
I am lost, I can’t even remember my name”
“Instant Crush” has some solid production but the vocal from Julian Casablancas seems soulless to me especially in the chorus which is actually quite annoying when he drones over it.
“Lose Yourself To Dance” on first listen might not interest you, I am sure with a few plays you’ll be singing the words. It is drenched in funk and given Pharrell Williams to croon over the track with Nile Rodgers giving a brilliant performance on the guitar.
I absolutely love this song and it was played on repeat for a long time once I heard it. I believe without the success of “Get Lucky” this could have been a reasonable sized hit in itself. It’s infectious, bold, and so damn funky.
“Touch” is a very strange song yet compelling. The first two minutes are an over indulgent sci fi like intro which I tend to skip into until the vocal from American singer Paul Williams comes in. Into his 70’s when he recorded this vocal the style of singing is most captivating.
The Spacey production and this old fashioned clear and perfect voice from Paul Williams sets the track on it’s way to a 1970’s time zone.
The song is great for 4 minutes but then loses it’s way for the remainder (another 5 minutes!) and not for the first time on “Random Access Memories” the track goes on for far too long to the point that it is easy to get bored and forget why you were liking the song in the first place.
The centre piece, the main event, the opus is next.
“Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers was a monster track. Every few years we get what we call ‘monster’ songs in that they are played all the time (probably too much) and sell millions on their own. This track did exactly that and just about everyone would have been aware of this song at some point.
Once you have heard the album version of the song it is difficult to go back and enjoy the radio edit as it just doesn’t have the same drama and effect.
The rift from Rodgers in the first 30 seconds is a joy to listen to and I love just replaying this portion of the song. The song then really kicks in with this funky uptempo tune which is just irresistible.
Pharrell Williams has always tried his hand at singing which is not his strongest suit given that his falsetto is average at best but regardless it all seems to work here.
“Beyond” is utter over the top in it’s orchestral opening but you have to admire the change in the direction that has been sprung upon you as the album continues to surprise.
“Motherboard” isn’t nearly as interesting and you have to think to yourself why on earth was this included. It is like they are performing at a gig and go off stage for a costume change and this tune gets played to just fill in. Worst on the album by far.
With “Fragments In Time” it again sounds a little out of place given this smooth middle of the road drum and guitar and a really unremarkable vocal from American House music producer Todd Edwards. This is what you would call a weak track. On the surface there is nothing wrong with it but it feels hollow and the country twang throughout the track is grating on the ears.
Thankfully the album is pulled back together by a quite stunning song – “Doin’ It Right”. This song features the vocals of Panda Bear from the American group Animal Collective. It’s a song that you expect to pick up tempo but never does as it simmers beautifully along. This song is a real treat and if you only listen to one song on ‘Random Access Memories” then I suggest it be this one.
There will be some that think this album is too much of a departure from previous Daft Punk work but I would tell them to just go and listen to the previous albums and I am sure they will realise that there have been pockets of similar work throughout previous efforts. Baselines, funky rifts, slow songs – they have all been there.
“Contact” finishes the album and this might be more the taste of a old school Daft Punk fan as it has this spaceship taking off at the start and descends into a loud cacoffiny that ends up annoying my ears.
“Random Access Memories” has some really high points and Daft Punk have released an album not fitting with anything else out at the time or subsequetly. They have taken their love for 70’s Funk and Disco music and put it through their Daft Punk filter. Whilst different to previous releases this remains a very Daft Punk album. It’s creative, its wonderfully produced and it features some superb tracks.