DAFT PUNK – Random Access Memories (2013)

Review by: Julien Mansencal
Album assigned by: Dinar Khayrutdinov

Despite being French, I had never listened to anything by Daft Punk up to this point. I tend to shy away from massively popular stuff, including but not limited to music, and they were no exception. Still, Random Access Memories was already lurking on the fringes of my list of things to discover, if only because it features Paul Williams on one track and I love this guy. (And it makes me realize just now that his own “Just an Old-Fashioned Love Song” would have fitted the nostalgia theme to a tee. Shame I didn’t think about that before.)

Anyway, it was a bit of a lie to say that I had never listened to Daft Punk before. Of course it was completely impossible to avoid “Get Lucky” in 2013, and deservedly so: it is a brilliant slice of disco and hearing it once is enough to remember it for years to come. I knew I should expect more of the same retro vibe throughout the record, and it was indeed there: lots of crisp funky bass and vibrant piano lines; an aural paradise. The songs themselves are rather more complex than I’d expected, many of them have several parts and sometimes they don’t fit together extremely well. “Touch” suffers a bit from that, but Paul Williams’ vocal helps giving it a sense of unity. On the other hand, “Giorgio by Moroder” does not seem as well-constructed to me, and listening to Moroder’s life story may be interesting once, but it gets boring after a while. The only part I’m not too fond of is in fact the vocals: apart from the featurings, they are Vocoderized all the way and it just kills the mood for me.

However, that’s not the main downside of the album. Its main problem is that everything goes on for too long: my attention keeps drifting away within some songs and I have trouble listening to the whole thing in one continuous sitting. Most of the time, once “Get Lucky” is done I could just as well turn off the sound; especially since the following track opens with a bombasting violin intro that’s so ridiculously over-the-top that even Jeff Lynne would think twice before putting it on an ELO record. Actually, that’s too bad since the following following track, “Motherboard”, is a gorgeous instrumental featuring an instrument called “Crystal Baschet” that sounds marvellous. The entire record is peppered with ideas that are just as interesting, but it’s just not enough to keep my attention focused for 75 minutes.

Still, overall Random Access Memories deserves a thumbs up, I think. The whole “funk revival” thing works quite well, apart from the robotic vocals. I don’t think I’ll put it on too often, but I won’t say no to one song from time to time. If I want to get my mojo working, I’ll still rather put on Sexuality by Sébastien Tellier; I think he channels better the Sleazy Seventies than Daft Punk do.