Album review: Daft Punk, Random Access Memories (Sony Music)

4.00

Album of the Week: Thrilled by some old-school sounds and a starry cast

The opening lines “Let the music of your life/ give life back to music” set out Daft Punk’s intentions from the start. On their fourth studio album, and first in eight years, Daft Punk give life back to music.

With Random Access Memories they have created an album that could only have been made wholly in the studio with real instruments and musicians (including an orchestra and children's choir). And the musicians on board are a starry cast: Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers, Julian Casablancas, Panda Bear, Paul Williams, Todd Edwards and Giorgio Moroder.

Like their Discovery LP which laid fresh pathways for pop and dance in 2001, Random Access Memories breathes life into the safe music that dominates today’s charts, with its sheer ambition; for pretty much the only thing not unexpected on this adventurous odyssey through disco, rock, funk and futuristic sounds, is Parisians Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo’s vocoded vocals. It’s an exciting journey, and one that, for all its musical twists and turns, has its feet planted on the dancefloor.

“Give Life Back to Music” has the same brilliant disco, prog-venturing, vibe of their Nile Rodgers funk guitar-fuelled No 1 single “Get Lucky”. Only Daft Punk can get away with the twisting and downright bonkers directions of the eight-and-a-half-minute “Giorgio by Moroder”. Opening with the electro-disco pioneer’s story of his drive to be a musician using the sounds of the 50s, 60s, 70s and the future, it branches gloriously into disco, building climactic layers of shimmering cosmic magic with synths, noodling electric jazz piano, strings and scattered beats. If that sounds odd, it’s nothing compared to the musical theatre crooning of Paul Williams on “Touch”.

Ambition is never at the cost of emotional depth. There’s a melancholic thread which runs through some of the album, not least in “Instant Crush” with its elegiac vocals from The Strokes’ frontman, while the classical piano-led ballad “Within” resounds with yearning lyrics: “Many rooms to explore but the doors are the same”.

Five years in gestation in comparison to Human After All’s mere six weeks, it’s a journey worth the wait. Surely to be the most thrilling album of the year.

Download: Give Life Back to Music; Giorgio By Moroder; Instant Crush; Get Lucky

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