Album: Daft Punk – “Random Access Memories” (2013)

Here was me complaining that I didn’t have the energy to do much blogging this week because of the warm weather, but now I realise I’ve done 4 albums reviews in 6 days, which may be a record. Let’s just hope they aren’t total crap, eh?

Well this much-hyped album has been kicking around my iPod since … let’s say it’s release date. It’s not so much that I grew attached to it, more than I was just hoping I would. I’ve sorta liked Daft Punk ever since 2001’s “Discovery” album, which may be amazing but might end up being one of those albums where I like all the singles, or the first half, but it sort of fizzles out. But that’s for another day. I sort of like them in the same way I sort of like most vaguely commercial French dance stuff.

It’s French, it makes me feel more sophisticated to say I like it. I tried (and didn’t quite manage) to delve into Air’s back catalogue, so maybe I should just remain a window shopper. I liked the singles off Daft Punk’s 2005 album “Human after all”, and I LOVED their “Tron Legacy” soundtrack. So I guess I had fairly high hopes for this.

I don’t know if it’s just because it relies so much on retro influences, or if I just can’t rate it as highly as much of the media has been rating it, or maybe I’m just being contrary, I simply DON’T KNOW. But it has its moments.

07 Give life back to music – I DO love that intro though, da-da-daaaah. It settles into an accessibly retro disco beat quickly, but then that vocoder kicks in, or voice filter, whatever. I guess I can’t criticise it too much, it seems quite popular for this genre, and complaining of Daft Punk’s use of tech is like complaining about a dog licking it’s bum. It’s decent but it just sort of continues … that intro returns for a mid-song bit of excitement, but that’s about it. Background music really.

06 The game of love – The beat disappears, and we have a very casual, laid-back bit of groovin’. Oh, that damn vocal filter is back again. It’s like the previous track, but without the great bits. Ho hum. At least there is a bit more lyrical content this time, and a few subtle little stretches that I quite like, but… I’m struggling to whip up much enthusiasm.

08 Giorgio by Moroder – OMG Giorgio Moroder!! I gather that’s the expected reaction, but I don’t really know who he is, apart from sort of knowing his name. Criticise away, but I mean LOOK AROUND, did you expect I’d know him? Giorgio does his best to introduce himself, with a spoken-word biographical segment. I like his accent. It’s quite nice really how the music develops over the duration. When he’s done his bit, it finally kicks into the sort of music I’d been waiting for. It feels quite 80s, in a good way, my sister used to play Jean Michel Jarre all the time, I guess I remember that. After the second monologue it really kicks up a notch, love the string sections, it’s all very good. Finally this is winning me over.

06 Within – I don’t like how the last track ends with a simple beat, but it just drops and turns into this piano-led track; there are a few moments on this album where I think it would just be awesome if the tracks blended into each other. Never mind, I guess they don’t like that. Hang on, didn’t they do that on “Discovery”? I’m fed up with that vocal filter, can’t you just get a singer? It’s quite nice backing music, and the tune is catchy – hang on, this just reminds me of that 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12 song from Sesame Street, with the pinball machine? Uncanny. A bit boring really. Cheer up, you’re a robot.

07 Instant Crush – Now I love this music. A bit downbeat again, but very accessible. I give up complaining about the voice filter, it’s obviously here to stay. He needs to enunciate though, the lyrics are probably quite nice but he’s mumbling. I sound old now. I SORT of like the chorus, it’s memorable at least, but just not firing off for me. Reasonable.

06 Lose yourself to dance – Are you getting the impression that this isn’t the album for me? Maybe it’s just not the sort of album to sit there and concentrate to, maybe just have it on during a summer BBQ or something. Hang on, that’s a real singer! Well, it’s Pharrell at least, at least I can understand the words. Not that it’s difficult to keep up, the chorus is flat as a pancake. The beat is nice and disco but I want some TEMPO. I might just put “Aerodynamic” on and have a little break. C’mon C’mon C’mon etc. Sigh.

08 Touch – A bit of robo-drama now, exciting. Sparse bleeping kicks it off, it’s a MOOD PIECE. Robot guy needs a space lozenge. Maybe his vocoder batteries are running low. I feel like I’m missing what is no doubt a high concept piece about a robot remembering his time spend as a 70s song-writer, assuming the personality files of Paul Williams. The name isn’t familiar but he wrote some big Carpenters hits and got an Oscar for “Rainbow Connection” off “The Muppet Movie”. He’s got a good voice though, and the melody (eventually) is quite easy to listen to. But twist, it turns out he wasn’t human after all (little in-joke there), and this easy-listening escapade was just a malfunctioning diode or something. A bit lost on me, but certainly a memorable moment of the album – Christ knows it needed some.

08 Get Lucky – Ha! There was a single in there, it turns out. A big one too. Looking at it shifting a million copies in the UK without even breaking a sweat (or making a music video, I mean COME ON) does make me think “… really?”. I mean I like it and everything, but I think I’m just missing the piece that makes people love it. It’s certainly the catchiest thing so far, and Pharrell is a great fit for it. I really could’ve done without a 6 minute version though, I don’t think it adds much to the action, other than length. They are obviously all about the 70s homage in this album, and while this is the cheesiest of them all, it’s also the easiest. Maybe that makes it a fromage? *ba-dum tish*

06 Beyond – How exciting, is this the theme to Space Dynasty or something? Lovely. Of course it doesn’t last though, that was just a teaser, and we are soon dumped back in the usual blah-de-blah flat old jazzy disco rhythm. I mean I’m sure someone likes it. The vocals aren’t quite as annoying but I’m not getting a lot out of this one.

06 Motherboard – Oops, just drifted onto a Wikipedia binge for a second there. Focus! I like the … is it a clarinet? Something like that. There were the strings on the Giorgio song too, I like when they put some of those orchestral instruments in something like this. I mean they might as well, nothing else is happening. It feels like hold music at a call centre, though depressingly I know exactly how long I’m going to be waiting. Though suddenly… SQUELCH, someone squeezes a space-squeegee all over the mic. Eventually normal service resumes. The false hope of something interesting happening in this metaphor is like the music cutting out and the woman going “your call is important to us, please hold” before the hold music resumes.

07 Fragments of time – Time to get your funk on. I don’t know, I’m super white, I don’t know what people say. Apparently the singer is a “house and garage producer”. It doesn’t sound like that, maybe it’s nothing to do with music, and he’s a builder who sings? Either way, his voice is quite nice, and it’s a welcome dose of something that sounds like a normal song. It’s sort of memorable, but maybe that’s because it sounds like a normal song. I feel like I’m picking up 1970s radio waves or something. Fine but not really my bag, daddy-O.

03 Doin’ it right – Oh I definitely remember this one, I HATE IT. OK a bit harsh, but that annoying voice filter it assaulting me on this one, ugh. JUST SHUT UP! I’d even listen to “Technologic” on a loop than listen to this one again. OH CHRIST SHUT UP! I’m not even at the minute mark! NO!

09 Contact – Phew, nearly there. This is actually rather good, it just fills me with all sorts of nice associations. 80s adventure movies mainly, like “Flight of the navigator” (what a shit name for a film now I think about it). A nice 80s vibe, and some US Space Programme refs in there, with an astronaut or pilot approaching some alien object. It’s all shiny, perhaps it’s a space disco or something. Certainly sounds like it, and finally Daft Punk remember the sort of thing I liked on “Discovery”. It’s got some grand-sounding organ effects, and the music evolves constantly. Good rhythm, no bloody voice filter, it just feels a lot less pretentious. They should be making futuristic music – sure, drawing on their influences that are clearly rooted in the 70s, but I want something fresh and exciting. “Contact” is the closest we get, a teaser of a closing track. It does spazz out at the end but I can turn a blind eye to that.

Gawd, that was a struggle. As I said at some point in the review, I think it’s probably not one of those albums you (or at least I) can just sit through and concentrate deeply on, it’s a good background to listen to on iPods, or perhaps at a party. But it just doesn’t have the hit potential that “Discovery” had. This is made all the more baffling by the fact that it’s going to be far and away their biggest hit.

I just wonder what the next album is going to sound like, I just hope they’ve got the direct 70s stuff out of their system now, I can’t take another album like this.

Keepers for the iPod: Giorgio by Moroder, Touch, Get Lucky, Contact

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