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Album Review
Random Access Memories

Random Access Memories
by Daft Punk

Columbia/Sony Music

Review Date
5th June 2013
Reviewed by
Vincent Michaelsen

As the shroud of mystery around the release of Daft Punk’s fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, disappears and the hype settles, it’s interesting to think about what made this album so hotly anticipated. Random Access Memories is by no means a comeback album, Daft Punk never ceased to be relevant, but neither are they currently at the crest of any movement – their last bona fide album, Human After All, was a solid affair but held nothing on its predecessor, Discovery, and in the eight years since, perhaps no one was really waiting for a fresh batch of android dance anthems. Though if anyone was challenged to re-define electro in a computer-dominated era, the ever so definitive duo present themselves as model candidates.

Daft Punk lay bare their intentions at the outset of this record – to 'Give Life Back To Music'. They’re potentially empty words that have surely been promised a thousand times before, but this time around they resonate. The 'life' they're talking about here is no doubt the human touch. It's not exactly the value we attribute to the pair largely famed for their robot personas, but that's partly why it works so well.

The aforementioned track opens the album with this high-budget 70s game show demonstration before cooling down to a groove which sits at the core of the album. In the centre is Nile Rodgers’ guitar hook. With a clear transition to band instrumentation shown in the first single 'Get Lucky', the tune feels like what you’ve been waiting to hear. Daft Punk have always carried a glistening brightness to their sound, and it’s definitely present in this track. After taking it down a notch with 'The Game of Love', 'Giorgio by Moroder' feels like the first titan of the record. It’s a tribute of sorts to the disco pioneer Giovanni Giorgio Moroder (who introduces the song over the first two minutes). The track takes its time to get going but the last few minutes really hit the mark in a driving space odyssey kind of way.

There’s no shortage of big names on Random Access Memories and the impression is that they're here to do what’s expected of them. The appearance of Noah Lennox (AKA Panda Bear) on 'Doin' It Right' is unexpected but his unmistakable stop/start vocals work to great effect. Julian Casablancas brings his lazy drawl to 'Instant Crush' and there are elements to it which feel like the missing piece to recent Strokes' releases, and while I want to love it, overall it fails to connect, becoming drawn out and tired. 'Lose Yourself To Dance' feels more like Pharrell feat. Daft Punk and is Random Access Memories at it's most committed to retro funk with Pharrell singing "...go ahead and wipe up all the sweat, sweat, sweat". The album's big hit 'Get Lucky' is deserving of its status, it's easily the most accessible number on the album and catchy as hell. So catchy in fact is Rodgers' smooth guitar line that you can find a 10-hour loop of it on YouTube.

Daft Punk never capitalised on the euphoric sound which fueled much of the 90s dance scene, and neither have they taken any short cuts here. They've gone straight to the source with a diverse mix of collaborators in order to create an album more conceptual than most. Where they needed a groove, they found Nile Rodgers; in celebration of the synthesizer, they brought in Moroder; and to even authenticate the sound of deep space they sampled original NASA communications in final track 'Contact'.

I'm not sure I'd call this album groundbreaking or even that unfamiliar - the roots of this album can still be found in their first big hit, 'Around The World'. But it is ambitious and daring, at times going against the tide, like the musical anomaly at the album's centre, 'Touch'. The song features a fragile performance from Paul Williams, which is strangely close to a stage musical that I'm not sure makes for regular listening. But the oddball track is compelling and endearing. For Daft Punk to pursue at song like this, which strays a distance from the path of pop conformity, is reassuring to say the least.


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