Encountering this album, I didn’t quite know exactly what to think about the entire thing. Random Access Memories is so far into it’s own universe that it’s cannot be looked at in comparison to other music right now. I’ll admit that I’ve only recently been listening to other Daft Punk records from front to back, mainly so I could get a decent idea of where the duo has been before and where they’re going with Random Access Memories. But that didn’t do me much good. Random Access Memories gives itself over to the past, but not too much of Daft Punk’s past and it’s a better album because of it. Hell, it’s one of the best dance records I’ve ever heard.
Right away, “Give Life Back To Music” gives off some disco/funk and it’s the catchiest thing on the entire record (which is really saying something). The next track, “The Game of Love” is smooth and sexy and I don’t quite know how to place it, some people might end up calling this song cheesy, but I’ll address this more later… “Giorgio by Moroder” had me very excited with it’s title, but Giorgio Moroder is only here through a vintage interview, but it works perfectly with the music. Moroder tells about his growing up and how all he ever wanted to do was make music. It’s like he’s giving a voice to the robots, and Daft Punk almost treat his voice like it’s something from the heavens, something that’s more important than many of the lyrics on this album. “Giorgio by Moroder” builds with some massive sounds towards the end and it also finds the perfect moments to slip into some jazz elements.
There’s other guests scattered on Random Access Memories, and Pharrell handles two songs here that are easily the most funky songs here, “Lose Yourself To Dance” and the single “Get Lucky”. The first track is quite simple and has a great bass groove, and while Pharrell’s vocals aren’t the best, they work nice on this song and the vocals of “come on, come on, come on” are really nicely done and catchy. “Get Lucky” has many of the same stuff going as “Lose Yourself To Dance”, but has an even catchier chorus and the groove is even better.
Julian Casablancas from The Strokes takes over vocals on “Instant Crush” and it’s easily the most modern song on the album, but there’s still plenty of eighties sounds going around the song. Casablancas gives some of his best vocals on “Instant Crush” even though most of it’s put through a filter, it sounds fantastic. Panda Bear pops up on “Doin’ It Right” with his usual vocal style, and it seems slightly out of place at first over the robotic vocals, but it melds together into a very intoxicating song that ends up being too short, just when I started to really get into it, the song ended.
Back to the issue of “cheesy” music on Random Access Memories. Daft Punk don’t seem to care what anyone thinks, and it shows on several songs here that shamelessly display their love for seventies soft pop (if I can make that comparison, it might be totally accurate) and some eighties shlock too. Using the word “cheesy” doesn’t really apply here. I don’t see Daft Punk making songs like “Within” and “Touch” and finding them funny or amusing, like many of people who claim to like “cheesy music”. These are very sincere songs that wink at their origins without making fun of them.
“Within” is a light, smooth jazz song that puts some electric keyboard (not synths), soft jazz drums, and slick bass lines together with some auto-tuned vocals. It’s very simple and the use of piano and a moment of very light bar chimes might turn people off, but it’s a stand out moment on the album because of these elements. “Fragments of Time” plays like an early eighties Hall & Oats, Leo Sayer or Boz Scaggs cut, complete with some very clean vocals, hilariously bad lyrics and some Peter Frampton vocal stuff tossed in too.
The moment that might end up being the most polarizing on Random Access Memories is the eight minute epic, “Touch”. Paul Williams, writer of some the biggest Carpenters and Three Dog Night songs as well as starring in the fantastic cult classic Phantom of Paradise, takes “Touch” through a labyrinth of disco that’s bound to make unassuming people laugh the first time through. There’s horns, there’s some saloon style piano banging away, there’s strings. The song then goes with some backwards sounds before shifting off into piano and a chorus of singers. Things build back like The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life” with some escalating strings and then a flurry of sci-fi sounds that swirl around. Just when the song should start to wind down, Paul Williams does some falsetto and then it’s just him and a piano.
“Touch” is the strongest moment on Random Access Memories with it’s shameless throwback to big seventies pop music. Daft Punk have created something that’s extremely entertaining with Random Access Memories, but it’s not going to strike everyone that way. The use of seventies and eighties sounds that never show up anymore are going to irritate and might not go down well with some Daft Punk fans. But this is Daft Punk’s finest moment. This is a group that has decided to look a segment of the past that no one else is going towards, and make it their own powerful work. “Let the music of your life/Give life back to music” is sung over and over on the opening song, and Daft Punk have done that over and over on this album.
Rating: 9.3 out of 10.