Album Review: Random Access Memories // Daft Punk

2013 saw the release of ‘Random Access Memories’, Daft Punk’s first studio album in eight years. It’s definitely the duos best commercial and critical success. For confirmation of this fact one only needs to look as far as the awards the album received at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards: ‘Album Of The Year’, ‘Best Dance/Electronica Album’ and ‘Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical’.

But here’s why it’s massively overrated:

There are positive aspects of the album, sure. ‘Touch’ is evocative of classics such as ‘A Day In The Life’ by The Beatles and the trademark drawl of Julian Casablancas (the Strokes) is appreciated by the listener in ‘Instant Crush’. The album sounds expensive; and that’s because it was. Bangalter estimated the cost of production to be “over one million dollars”. Worth it in terms of commercial success, sure; for it became the duo’s first UK number-one album, with 165,091 copies sold in its first week. But worth it in terms of aural satisfaction for Daft Punk fans? No.

The album that graced the charts in 2013 was, as a whole, extremely ambitious and wildly inconsistent; the listener was presented with a schizophrenic mess of a record that wasn’t a dance album. Well, at least not in the way that ‘Discovery’ and ‘Homework’ were. In “Get Lucky”, which won a Grammy Award for “Record Of The Year”, Williams sings “We’ve come too far/to give up who we are”, and yet that’s exactly what the musical duo appear to have done. Their sound has been re-jigged, and the listener is presented with a seventy-five minute eclectic mash-up of genres.

Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter may have thought that incorporating jazz-infused instrumentals, vocoder, soft rock and pretentious Broadway-esque lyrics was a good idea, but it feels too wide-reaching. It’s apparent to the listener that the tracks are devoid of any real substance or meaning. They’ve “given up” who they are, and the resulting smorgasbord of genres can be summed up in one word: odd.

These aren’t the only bizarre choices made in the production of this album; the cover art is a confusing homage to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. And the closing track ‘Contact’ features a recording of Captain Eugene Cernan from the Apollo 17 mission; quintessentially a six-minute ode to a spaceship taking off. It’s certainly “one great leap” for Daft Punk, a leap from the solid and reliable surface of electronic dance music to a genre to something that’s not yet been defined by (musical) science.

As a result of this, one can only conclude that Daft Punk certainly “got lucky” in 2013 – they didn’t deserve “Album of the Year”, by any stretch.