Such is Daft Punk’s enduring legacy that it’s easy to forget it’s been 8 years since the French duo’s last album proper. That’s a long time to be away but with Random Access Memories, Daft Punk prove that the wait was worth it – and deliver what might just be their best album yet in the process.
In what feels like an effort to avoid repeating the mistakes of their 2005 release, the underwhelming Human After All (which was infamously recorded in just six weeks), Daft Punk have taken their sweet time producing a follow up. But while Human After All felt underdeveloped and inconsequential, every second of Random Access Memories feels like a labour of love.
Lead single Get Lucky has been rightfully dominating the charts recently and it’s a perfect example of what Random Access Memories has to offer. The album is packed full of effortlessly funky tracks that feel like a highlight reel of the best the 70’s and 80’s had to offer. Sonically, Random Access Memories feels like a logical evolution of Daft Punk’s earlier nostalgia-drenched high water mark, Discovery, but with the balanced shifted slightly away from modern dance music in favour of disco, prog, and other retro touchstones.
Part of this shift comes from Daft Punk’s increased emphasis on live musicianship. There are still synthesisers everywhere of course, but the samples and beats are largely gone, replaced by smooth guitar, crisp drums and lush orchestration. Whereas earlier Daft Punk albums relied heavily on samples, Random Access Memories instead relies upon contributions from a huge selection of musicians including Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams, Julian Casablancas and Panda Bear. There are plenty of great collaborations here but everything always feels firmly Daft Punk.
Get Lucky is an obvious highlight and a great template for the album but there are plenty of other standouts including the mournful Game Of Love and the insane, extended prog odyssey of Giorgio By Moroder. The entire album feels immaculately produced with gorgeous instrumentation, seamless guest spots and some wonderful uses of Daft Punk’s iconic vocoders.
In fact, Random Access Memories feels like a proper album, the sort you don’t encounter often these days. Every track has a purpose and the whole thing flows seamlessly from beginning to end. It’s the sort of album they just don’t make anymore, the kind you can play through a good pair of headphones and get lost in. In this respect, Daft Punk have absolutely succeeded in their tribute to days gone by.
But like all the best albums of yesteryear, Random Access Memories is perhaps guilty of being a little too indulgent. While there’s no filler here and every track is worth its place, many songs, particularly as you dig further into the album, feel somewhat overlong. Repetition has always been part of Daft Punk’s music and when the hooks are this good it’s not a huge problem but tracks like Lose Yourself To Dance and Motherboard could easily lose a minute or two without anyone complaining.
Still, what Daft Punk have accomplished with Random Access memories is nothing short of remarkable and the overall quality of what they offer here makes it easy to accept a few overindulgences. Random Access Memories is a glorious tribute to the past that should be enjoyed and adored long into the future. Daft Punk are back. Time to hit the dance floor.