Album review: Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Album review: Daft Punk - Random Access Memories | Random J Pop

Daft Punk have always been a strange act, in the sense that the expectation of what they would deliver with each project they put out was something that was generated by fans, and not them. Which is part of why I think Human After All was so quickly dismissed (although it was a pretty bad album). Why Alive 2007 felt so bittersweet. And why everybody was so on the fence about their work on the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. So many of us have this ideal scenario in our mind of what Dart Punk will do, and when they don't, we pretend we do not see it.

Random Access Memories was a different beast though. It released 8 long years after their last studio album, and after a period of time where they had tried different things, and quite frankly, disappointed a lot of people. So, the announcement that Daft Punk would be releasing something new came with no real expectation. And then it hit, and everybody really fucking loved it. And the album would kick start the resurgence of Disco on the pop charts the world over, which still has a hold to this day.

Album review: Daft Punk - Random Access Memories | Random J Pop

Daft Punk releasing a disco album may seem wild, but it also makes a lot of sense. Daft Punk's music has always been filed under French house, a genre of which has origins in disco. So many of their songs over the years have had disco vibes. The groove of "Fresh". The bassline of "Around the World". The chopping of Eddie John's "More Spell on You", a disco record, for "One More Time". But whilst Daft Punk have always been known for the crazy ways in which they use samples and synthesizers in their music, with a real emphasis on digital manipulation, Random Access Memories is like a deconstruction of their own sound. It's liked Daft Punk asked themselves, 'If we were to make a Daft Punk album with live instrumentation, how would it sound' and Random Access Memories is the answer.

This may not sound like a big shift or that big a deal to most. But for a duo whose music has always been electronic and known for being as such, it's a pretty big deal deal, because there was so much of a margin for the sonics of the Daft Punk sound to change completely. And it does...but it also doesn't. Because Daft Punk's sense of melody and rhythm transcends whatever sounds they are run through - whether it's software or somebody playing it on a piano. Also, it's not like Random Access Memories is some wild departure from what Daft Punk were known for. Discovery's "Something About Us" would sit perfectly on this album. And Homework's "Fresh" could easily be flipped into a Random Access Memories disco ditty.

Daft Punk's decision to utilise live instrumentation and session players also feels like it's part of the Daft Punk narrative; the need and desire to become human. Especially when you consider that Random Access Memories came after their work on the Tron: Legacy soundtrack and their last studio album Human After All. I mean, the it's even in the title. Random Access Memories being a play on RAM, something used in computers, but whilst a computer has memory it doesn't have memories. At least not yet anyway.

And whilst Daft Punk have made a career out of hiding their faces, their music has always been about connecting people and bringing them together, and this feels like the heart of Random Access Memories in its purest form. And also embodies part of what made disco, well...disco.

Album review: Daft Punk - Random Access Memories | Random J Pop

Random Access Memories in many ways feels like not only an ode to humanity and connection (as Daft Punk's music always has) but to a genre of music that brought so many cross sections of people together. Disco. And Random Access Memories features two of the most prominent figures of the era; Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder. Rodgers featuring on three of the albums' cuts, including the hit single "Get Lucky". Whilst Moroder features on a song where he's giving a monologue on how he got into music and discovered disco on a song titled "Giorgio by Moroder".

This sense of human connection and comradery is evident in the amount of guest features that Random Access Memories features. 6 out of the 13 songs featuring a guest vocal, in comparison to Daft Punks' previous albums which featured only one credited guest feature between them, who returns here - Todd Edwards, who last appeared on Discovery's "Face to Face".

The select pool of guest featured artists who all fit within the soundscape that Daft Punk have created, but bring the energy they're known for to the songs too. Pharrell Williams features on 2 of the songs, which he also co-wrote, and he does as you'd expect Pharrell to do. Williams also said in interviews that around the time Daft Punk reached out to him about doing something for Random Access Memories, that he was coincidentally exploring the sounds of Chic and Nile Rodgers, which tracks with the work he was putting out around 2012 and 2013. Songs like Leah LaBelle's "Lolita", Jennifer Hudson's "I Can't Describe (The Way I Feel)" and Daley's "Look Up", and songs he would go on to do such as Kylie Minogue's "I Was Gonna Cancel" and "This City" for Snoop Dogg's album Bush.

The roster of talent speaks to not only the spectrum on what Daft Punk operate, but what Random Access Memories is all about generally, which is human connection and a marriage of old and new. You have Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder here, doing what they're known for, but also being recontextualised for a whole generation of music listeners who may have no idea who they are or how big their contributions to music truly are. Then you have well-known cool cats Pharrell Williams and Julian Casablancas of The Strokes being reframed in the sound that Rodgers and Moroder were responsible for. And then there's Paul Williams on a song titled "Touch" no less. An artist known for scoring Bugsy Malone and The Muppets Movie singing on a disco record. It's the kind of thing that would only make sense on a Daft Punk record.

Album review: Daft Punk - Random Access Memories | Random J Pop

Random Access Memories manages to bridge everything that Daft Punk had ever done, with things they'd never done before, which results in an album that just feels...right. I had no expectation of what Random Access Memories would sound like or what form it would take. But when I heard "Get Lucky", I was like 'Oh, of course Daft Punk would release a song like this'.

Fans of Daft Punk's more louder and frenetic songs may find Random Access Memories a little too slow and sombre for their tastes. A song like "Within", which is pretty much a ballad, may take Homework and Discovery fans by surprise. And there's nothing on here as fast as "Technologic" or as obnoxious as "Robot Rock". But the different pace and direction taken musically here is a welcomed one, because as much as I like Homework and Discovery, I didn't want either of them again.

There's a real sense of Daft Punk knowing their sound so well, but also being so open to try and expand it in ways that perhaps they felt they weren't able to prior. And it's great hearing certain production elements of this album carried over from their work on Tron: Legacy. Even though we see Daft Punk as such master of their craft, they themselves never sit still and are still learning and willing to try new things, and this is a part of the magic that makes Random Access Memories such a joy to listen to. At the end of the day, it's just good music from a couple of guys who love the craft of making music.


■ Give Life Back To Music
■ The Game of Love
■ Lose Yourself To Dance 🏆 J's fave
■ Get Lucky
■ Beyond
■ Fragments of Time
■ Doin' It Right
■ Contact