Review: Daft Punk – “Random Access Memories” – Homage to golden times

To find out the secret of “Giorgio By Moroder”, you put on headphones: In the song, Moroder doesn’t play a sequencer, he doesn’t sing either. He speaks. About his beginnings as a musician in the 60s – and for each other era he talks about, he speaks into a different microphone from those different eras. This is head music. You can dance to it. But also try to hear which devices someone is speaking into and what journey through time this begins.

For their fifth album, Daft Punk returned to their childhood heroes

For their fifth album, Daft Punk returned to their childhood heroes, as they did on “Discovery” (2001). They were the first to pay homage to the power chorus music of the late 1970s, which later celebrated a renaissance under the “Yacht Rock” label, but still sampled it in a futuristic way. In “Random Access Memories”, however, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo appeared with an open mind: they recreated music from 1976 to 1982 in a largely unadulterated way and hired aces of that time, celebrities like Nile Rodgers, but also R&B session musicians like Paul Jackson Jr. and Nathan East. People who could tell the French stories about how they received “Thriller.” Autodidacts like Chilly Gonzales and Panda Bear provided impulses that connected generations.

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The concept, however, is bolder than many of the compositions. The quality varies greatly, which is also reflected in the eight bonus tracks of the anniversary edition, outtakes and demos. There’s the speechless Supertramp-goes-musical epic “Touch”, in which Paul Williams sings so desperately through a distortion device as if he were asking for life extension through alien ventilators, but also cyberpunk shit like “Instant Crush” – that Julian Casablancas probably still got more streams than anything with his strokes.

Genius is often characterized by lightness

Those melodies that were created together with Rodgers and Pharrell Williams naturally feel as if they have always been there. God given. No wonder someone like Liam Gallagher said about “Get Lucky”: “I can write something like that in two minutes.” Genius is often characterized by lightness. Gallagher could never understand that. The album reached number one in the USA, as did the single – Daft Punk, Rodgers and Pharrell didn’t even need a music video for that.

However, the global hit album also signaled the end of Daft Punk. They have long been pioneers of EDM, who made the stadium era of DJs possible with “Alive 2007”. But going on tour with the guest stars and the studio band and exploring new territory was impossible. When they performed, like at the Grammys, Rodgers and Pharrell did the show, and Daft Punk seemed parked at the back of their desk. Unlike “Homework” (1997), the record is not a legacy of brilliant electro artists, not least because they largely forego their techno-robo signatures.

“Random Access Memories” is simply a very good homage to music from golden times. A year passed after that. And then another. And then many years passed. So many that you could guess what was coming. In 2021, eight years after their greatest success, Daft Punk announced their dissolution. What else? Nothing was unlit anymore. They had explored both: future and past. Nile Rodgers is experiencing his second spring that continues to this day – as is Giorgio Moroder, who didn’t have to play a single note on the album.