10 November 2013

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

This has to have been one of the biggest releases in 2013, surely when it first came out in May of this year you could not escape the album or the first single off this album "Get Lucky".  This is fourth studio album (they have release seven albums in total - two live albums and the mesmerising 'Tron: Legacy' OST), and considering they have 1993 you have to consider that to be either a very poor recording drive from the band, or very clever in keeping themselves fresh as they command a respect from the musical community that I have never seen for a dance band.  Maybe it is also because they have kept their identities relevantly quite as well (they are never seen without their helmets/masks and just keep themselves off the celebrity circuit).  But all in all, they just seem to have that golden touch which makes everything they do come up smelling of roses.  I have not been looking at the album on purpose to be honest, not because I was scared it would be awful or just noise without content; I just didn't want to be cashing in on the publicity.  I wanted to come to it when I was ready, just like the band has with their music.  Now with the end of the year coming, it is time to see what this album is about.

Starting the album with the disco heavy "Give Life Back To Music" which sets the overall tone for this album.  There is not an urgent bone in this track, apart from the urgent need to get you on the dance floor. With the Nile Rodgers riff (one of three tracks he appears on over the album) is a wonderful piece of work, and it also brings his work with Chic back to people's minds.  Following this is slow pulsing "The Game Of Love", whilst not being badly played or anything, it is a little bit on the boring side.  It is nice, but it does nothing for me.  Next is the wonderful "Giorgio by Moroder" which is have a monologue at the beginning by Giorgio Moroder and is the story of his early work in electronic music.  The band did not let Moroder be involved with any of the track apart from the spoken word contribution and it is based on a demo they had made many years ago. Upon hearing the full track, Moroder has been quoted as saying he feels it was inspired by his work with Donna Summer's (especially on the track "I Feel Love") and if he ever wrote an auto biography, he would ask Daft Punk for the complete session tapes of "Giorgio by Moroder" to use as a basis. Over the nine minutes of this track, Daft Punk take you on a retro journey to a soundscape which whilst sounding so 70's it hurts yet it sounds so modern and up to date as well.  It is truly an amazing track which may not be for everyone, but it is the stand out moment of the album.

After this you have "Within", a slow mournful number about someone who does not understand the world around him and he cannot explain what is inside him either.  It is such a sad song and it makes the album come to a halt again, but in a good way this time.  It is short, sweet and beautiful; a fantastic song (all be it a little on the depressive side).  Coming after that you have "Instant Crush" which features guest vocals by Julian Casablancas from The Strokes, singing over a medium pace number, with a slightly rocky taint; when I say slightly I mean not at all.  There is a cracking solo in the middle, but saying this is rock influenced is like saying Jack Black is a romantic lead.  It can be hinted at, but it is not right.  Yet it is a decent number all the same, nothing ground breaking so far apart from "Giorgio by Moroder", but decent all the same.

Then you have the first of two Pharrell Williams (both of which feature Mr N. Rodgers) with "Lose Yourself To Dance", just like "Give Life Back To Music" the disco is back at the forefront and it is also where the band excels for most of the album.  They just seem to understand the way that disco works and how to get it to a new market as has been shown by the way that this album has took over certain parts of the world.  If anything could be said about this song, is that it could be about a minute or so shorter.  Then comes "Touch" again another song with another contribution from Paul Williams, a singer songwriter who has worked with the likes of David Bowie, The Carpenters and others.  Now this song has a much more natural feel, it is not just a tribute and I think that comes from Paul Williams delivery on the track, it just has that source of joy that this sort of music should have and can be lacking in places on this album (albeit when the music is played beautifully), this is truly an amazing track which changes the face of the album when it was most needed.

Then you have the mega hit, the all conquering Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers fronted "Get Lucky".  Unless you have been living under a rock, you would not have been able to escape this song.  It is a simple song, but because it is simple it is all the more effective; less is more on this one and you get one of the top songs of the year.  However, it is the top song of the album (bet you can't guess which one that is for me) and I like that; if this had have been the best song on here, there would have been very little else to look at.  After this you have "Beyond" which bring the album to a slower pace again, but it needed it at this point.  It was very high tempo (for disco music at least), and whilst it is not setting my heart all a flutter and making me excited, I can appreciate it for what it is.  Then along comes "Motherboard" which is one of the few tracks on the album which does not have a special guest playing on it.  It sounds like a computer game tune if the truth be told, I can imagine it being used on a remake of the classic racing game Outrun; picture it, the Ferrari driving along the beach trying to make it to the flashing chequered flag and you are trying your best before the time runs out and this would be the soundtrack.  Again it does not setting my mind alight with joy, but another good piece of music.

"Fragments Of Time" is next with the vocals handled by American house and garage producer Todd Edwards.  The clearer vocals and delivery make the background tune and wistful guitar playing seems all the more stark to be honest and organic at the same time.  But the feeling that I have seen heard this before will not leave me, it builds through the album but by the time you are approaching the end it starts to before a distraction in places.  "Doin' It Right" starts with another vacuum tube-amplified microphone vocal delivery and even though dance music is to be repetitive, this one just goes on a little bit too much and could have easily been removed from the album (along with a couple of the others if the truth be told), also the vocal delivery by Panda Bear suck balls, big balls. Ending the album however is "Contact" with a sample of an astronaut at the beginning and help from DJ Falcon this song ends the album with a euphoric track.  There is a debate if the end distortion should have been took off, for me I find it both annoying and great - it sort of fits the album perfectly.

Anyway, to the end verdict for the album.  In some places, this album soars like a bird and can be bigger than life, but in other places it is just dull and uninspiring.  Also it is a few tracks too long, a few of the songs are too long, but when it is at its best - "Get Lucky" and "Giorgio by Moroder" - it is truly wonderful (and if it was not for those two tracks, it would be getting a few less marks).  This album might be voted the album of the year in certain parts of the press and by other pundits; but not here and not for me.  There is too much of the past here to make it worth all the effort that comes with listening to it all the way through; the wait was not worth it for me and I feel like sometimes they just need someone to have said no in the studio.  If I was to sum it up in a word, it would be disappointing.

6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the band's website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

He is a video with a sample of "Giorgio by Moroder"



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