I still remember hearing 'Da Funk' for the first time, while watching MTV. I hadn’t been a fan of electronic music, defined as it was by lazy Ibiza club anthems that sounded increasingly similar. Yet Daft Punk were bold and imaginative, showing electronic music didn’t need to resort to the lowest common denominator. 15 years on, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is experiencing a similar malaise with tracks all following the same formula – can Daft Punk revitalise the genre again?
The evidence based on the last two records would suggest not, both of which arguably struggled to make any significant commercial or artistic impact. Yet, 'Random Access Memories' is arguably the most anticipated album this year, even managing to generate more hype than Bowie’s return. Partly the result of a huge marketing campaign, where it’s been nigh on impossible to escape some form of advertising for the album, the duo have also been enjoying a popular revival, especially in the US where EDM has broken into the mainstream.
It’s almost impossible for the record to live up to this hype yet Daft Punk make a great attempt. The album’s arrangements are meticulous with no expense spared and in tune with the more traditional nature of the promotional campaign, they have only used live instrumentation, hiring some of the world’s leading session musicians. As a result, it’s a luxurious sounding record that has numerous highlights.
'Lose Yourself To Dance' shares the same dancefloor DNA as 'Get Lucky' and should be a equally huge hit, while 'Instant Crush' sees Julian Casablancas collaborating on the electro-pop smash he’s been threatening to deliver for years. As well as their mastery of disco-pop, Daft Punk show they can deliver great ballads as well, such as 'The Game Of Love' and 'Fragments Of Time'.
However, despite the duo’s clear efforts to re-humanise dance music, the record sounds strangely hollow in places, lacking substance beyond the sheen. Some of the tracks simply pass by without leaving an impression, albeit sounding impressive, such as 'Within' and 'Motherboard'.
The album is also littered with WTF moments that sometimes overshadow the music. Although the prog-electro epic 'Giorgio By Moroder' featuring a dialogue from Giorgio Moroder himself somehow works - in its attempt to encompass Broadway, disco, pop and classic music all in one song, 'Touch' by contrast ends up a mess.
There is something very laudable about Daft Punk trying to re-create the time when the release of an album truly felt like an event. Although they may not quite have succeeded in their aim of re-creating the modern equivalent of 'Off The Wall' or the disco version of 'Dark Side Of The Moon', 'Random Access Memories' stands up in its own right as a fascinating musical odyssey.
At the very least, this album should inspire EDM artists to truly embrace the possibilities of the recording studio, but more importantly, re-asserts that dance music without soul is meaningless. Even if Daft Punk don’t quite scale the heights of their ambitions, 'Random Access Memories' is a heroic failure.
'Random Access Memories' is available to purchase at amazon.co.uk, iTunes etc. Find more info at daftpunk.com.