Daft Punk ‘Random Access Memories’ Review: The Robots’ Playground


Daft Punk
Random Access Memories (Columbia Records)
Release Date: March 21, 2013
Starring: Panda Bear, Julian Casablancas, Todd Edwards, DJ Falcon, Chilly Gonzales, Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rodgers, Paul Williams, Pharrell Williams

The French duo Daft Punk, comprised of Thomas Bangalter (38) and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (39), have moved eons away from their 1997 crossover Homework, an album many say caused the EDM volcano to erupt. But it wasn’t called EDM back then, and you can’t really dub Random Access Memories that either. It’d be like calling a Bruno Mars album gangster rap because at times he spits on a breakdown. Elements used pertaining to any blanket genre do not equal the sum of its parts.

This is not an Electronic Dance Music for Gen-Y, dancing in their furry boots and spirit hoods at Ultra Music Festival. A title like RAM makes sense for this robotic duo, and some other meanings for the acronym do a great job describing the record: Ridiculous Abstract Moments, Revered Artists’ Musings, Roaring Aural Magnum, Random Ass Memories. The unintentional cult leaders that are Daft Punk, along with a well-oiled army of musicians, pack as many disparate sounds as possible into these 13 tracks. And we’re all drawn to it like moths to the flame. Its neon glow just too bright to ignore. Even the duller moments.

There’s high points, like the ominous vocal interludes on insta-classic “Doin’ It Right” featuring Panda Bear. Then there are the lows, such as the mercurial indie-electro “Instant Crush” featuring Julian Casablancas, which would better serve as the backdrop for a skateboarding video. Somewhere in between these far ends there’s a story lurking. But that narrative is not fluid. Nor does it have to be. This is sound-play.

Sometimes it’s dark and even terrifying, and suddenly it’s Steve Sondheim (Daft Punk the Broadway musical, anyone?). Next it jumps to Louis Carroll-trippy meets jazzy future disco. Welcome to Daft Punk’s playground, where you can dance or fall asleep (see track seven, “Touch”, which is safer than Ambien and just as trance-like).

A standout is track “Giorgio By Moroder.” Moroder’s voice is suave yet earnest as he explains, “We knew we needed a synthesizer because it was the sound of the future.” An orchestra tic rock band kicks off with not one, but two wizards on bass: pioneering rock and R&B bassist Nathan East and plucking legend James Genus, who tours with Herbie Hancock to this day. Their rhythm section steers this sonic ship as Moroder hypnotically lauds, “We put the click on the 24.” A basic three-way independence you learned in drum class meets like an orgasm crescendo with clean electro synths. This is truly RAM’s shining star.

Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories has fallen from someplace “outside the ether in which we live” to the Earth’s surface and spread like the Bubonic plague across the world. It’s easily the biggest dance album of the year. As for the single, “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams, which shot to number one on iTunes upon droppage, it’s not just the former N.E.R.D. star that makes this a hit. Thanks are also due to Nile Rodgers, whose undeniable axe chops kick in after about two minutes. The tune is super gay (in the French way) and sticks in your head like superglue. If you can’t enjoy this song, get a therapist. Or go back to your EDM.