Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, together known as Daft Punk, made their musical debut 16 years ago with the album “Homework.” The duo has once again made magic with its latest album, “Random Access Memories,” which is a throwback to disco that augments its previously established electronic sound with an orchestra.
It has been eight years since its last studio album, and in that time Daft Punk has recruited various artists that have inspired Bangalter and Homem-Christo for this record. They include Paul Jackson Jr., Michael Jackson’s guitarist on “Thriller,” rapper Pharrell, actor and producer Paul Williams, Italian music producer Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers, the lead guitarist of Chic. Together with its collaborators, Daft Punk has built on the synthesized sounds, electronic guitars and orchestras it’s known for while adding the human sound of its guest artists’ vocals.
This machine-to-human transition is best illustrated in the first song, “Give Life Back to Music,” which becomes the foundation of the album’s mellow and slow beat, gradually picking up pace with every track. Lyrics like “Let the music of your life/ Give life back to music” show that Daft Punk wants to alter its musical style to have a more human touch, which is further expressed by the absence of synthesizers as the album progresses.
However, the album falters with the third song, “Giorgio by Moroder,” a nine-minute narrative by Moroder, who tells his life story of being a musician and producer since the ‘60s. While this format is interesting, it drags the album down and loses its focus on the normally heavily electronic music becoming more human.
The album’s shining moment comes from the song “Touch,” featuring Williams. It successfully showcases the conversion between machine and human sounds. The lyrics, “Touch, sweet touch/You’ve almost convinced me I’m real,” allude to Williams’ role in the 1974 film “Phantom of Paradise,” in which he plays the Phantom, a man who becomes part machine and strives to be human again. These lyrics combined with the move to an orchestral chorus as opposed to synthetic electronic beats help transition into the album’s first single, “Get Lucky,” a peppy song that has been invading radio airwaves all summer. At this point, the synthetic sound is completely gone, and Rodgers’ guitar playing becomes the centerpiece that holds the album together.
While Daft Punk still utilizes its heavy synthesized tones, it slowly begins to wean itself off of them as the album reaches its conclusion, showing that the band can utilize both human and mechanical sound flawlessly.
3 stars out of 4