Daft Punk - Random Access Memories - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

by Sarah Allen Rating:9 Release Date:2013-05-20

Imagine the scene. It's Friday night. You're in a pop-up club on the South Bank having a civilised conversation with an otherwise sane adult when all of a sudden, Daft Punk's new single 'Get Lucky' blares through the speakers. Suddenly, your once-civilised friend regresses to a giddy teenager booming, "OOOOHHHHH!," shaking his groove-thing, his face positively beaming like a man possessed. At this point, it would be remiss of me not to mention said friend's killer charm and boyish good looks.

If this single has the same affect on you, then the Punks' latest project, Random Access Memories, will prove to be a worthy download. The new album from the mysterious French duo is strong, multi-dimensional and, dare I say, mature. It stands to reason: at 38 and 39-years-old, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo are virtually old timers in their field.

This album is new in every sense of the word. The boys have come a long way from 'Around the World'. RAM's opening track, 'Give Life Back to Music', has the positive vibe of Discovery's 'One More Time' but all grown up. And they have.

RAM is DP's first proper release since 2005's Human After All, bar the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. In fact, Human After All is a title which should have been reserved for Memories. With a little help from artists like rapper Pharrell Williams, The Strokes' singer Julian Casablancas, and disco legends Nile Rodgers (guitarist in Chic, who did 'Le Freak') and Giorgio Moroder (produced Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love'), the album is the most human work DP have produced.

There's hardly a sample in sight. RAM is instead full of live instruments, human vocals - as well as the odd autotune - and, above all, a heart. A sentimental yet funky nod to past musical greats (notice the album artwork bares a striking resemblance to that of Michael Jackson's Thriller), RAM can be epitomised with the stellar 'Giorgio By Moroder', a three-part dance track containing an interview with the man behind Scarface's score, including 'Push It to the Limit', which this track instantly reminded me of. Dancing is strongly advised in small doses, with a club reveller's wet dream on 'Lose Yourself to Dance', including Williams on vocals and Rodgers on guitar.

'Doin' It Right' featuring Panda Bear is another dance anthem ("Everybody will be dancing and be feeling alright,") although it seems out of place with the rest of the album at first. With its West Coast hip hop beat, I half expected Snoop Dogg - excuse me; Lion - to hop on the track extolling the virtues of bitches and hoes. The West Coast connection is not an accident: 'Fragments of Time', with vocals and a little mixing from Todd Edwards, was based on the trio's time spent making the track in sunny California. The song had such a profound affect on Edwards that he later "moved [to California] because of those three weeks" spent collaborating with the boys. This little fact makes the lyric, "If I had my way I would never leave" all the more poignant.

Surprisingly, for the most part RAM is a chilled catalogue of tunes, considering the brawn behind it. 'Within', for instance, with its Barry Manilow-style piano intro by noted pianist Chilly Gonzales (Feist - 'The Limit to Your Love'), is an auto-tuned ballad that would make Kanye West circa 808s & Heartbreaks envious. 'The Game of Love' is another slow jam, an uncharacteristically mellow, sexy song about broken hearts and longing.

And the crooning doesn't stop with blatant ballads. I hear a lot of Michael McDonald on this album, although he's not an official collaborator. While the smooth guitar-plucking, easy-listening 'Beyond' sounds a lot like 'I Keep Forgettin', 'Fragments' could be a distant cousin of 'What a Fool Believes', neither of which are bad things.

Daft Punk really show their growth and their own voice on album highlight 'Motherboard'. With no vocals and an ultra-cool Brazilian jazz intro Bebel Gilberto would be proud of which later bursts into a supernova of head-nodding drums, this simple yet effective track is like a port in a storm of collaborations and sentimental lyrics. RAM concludes with Apollo mission astronaut Gene Cernan reporting a UFO sighting over 'Contact', a track co-produced with fellow Frenchman DJ Falcon. It's almost as if the anonymous Punks (would you spot them in a Parisian coffee shop without their trés chic helmets on?) are on that UFO, heading back to their Daft planet having delivered us mere mortals, with our National Insurance Numbers and public Facebook profiles, their other-worldly material. They have made 'Contact', as it were.

In all, RAM, with its computer metaphors and impressive collaborations, is a solid album with few if any flaws. Are they lamenting over the disposable nature of pop music with this album's title? Are they trying to make a statement about how music is losing its soul to the masses with their tribute to MJ on the artwork? Who knows? Who cares? All I know is this album has given life back to music.

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