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by Michael Baggs

Tags: Daft Punk

First review: Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Track by track breakdown of the most anticipated album of 2013

 

First review: Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

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The wait is over - Daft Punk are back with their fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, and the French duo's comeback album is set to be one of the biggest albums of 2013.

Despite big releases from the likes of David Bowie, Fall Out Boy and more, no new album has captured the imagination like Daft Punk's big return. The hype has reached fever pitch after months of online teasers, festival surprises and interviews with the guests on the new record.

A few weeks ago Gigwise was summoned to Daft Punk's record label, locked in a room and allowed to listen to Random Access Memories. We were then sworn to secrecy - until now. Check out our first impressions of the new album right here.

'Give Life Back to Music' (featuring Nile Rodgers)
Opening with those oh-so-familiar vocodered vocals, Daft Punk stamp their distinct mark on the new album, which has become as known for its collaborators as it has the robots themselves. Of course, with Nile Rogers on the track, the spotlight here is shared, with Daft Punk's 'music of your life' lyrics blending seemlessly with big disco guitar licks. 'Give Life Back To Music' follows the live feel of No.1 single 'Get Lucky', and packs a massive middle eight (not dissimiliar to some of the sounds heard on Justice's Civilization album) before dropping into a huge intstrumental finale, the sort only Daft Punk could pull off without sounding self indulgent. A big start to a big album.

'The Game of Love'
While Daft Punk are remembered for big dance hits, softer tracks such as 'Something About Us' and 'Make Love' have also made their marks on previous albums, and here the tempo drops after the disco assault of the opening track. A melancholy, robotic ballad with touches of Tina Turner's 'I Can't Stand The Rain' in the vocodered 'Me, I just want you to stay' hook, seemlessly blended with a live, 70s porn-esque production. Both subtle and stunning.

'Giorgio by Moroder' (featuring Giorgio Moroder)
And here is where the album gets truly epic. Previous Daft Punk albums have been adored by fans - but at times have raised eyebrows with the quantity of samples used. Random Access Memories is a sample free album, and 'Giorgio By Moroder' is the most intricate and intelligent track of Daft Punk's career. Built upon a spoken word narrative by the iconic seventies producer, the track is 50% documentary, 50% beautiful disco track.

As Moroder discusses the evolution of his career, the production changes accordingly - and when he begins to talk about his love for the synthesizer, the beat flips to an eighties-influenced synth sound. After a keyboard breakdown, the seventies and eighties sounds collide before Moroder returns for a spoken word outro, and just when you think things can't get any bigger? Oh yeah - there's a massive orchestra involved as well. 'EPIC' DOESN'T EVEN COME CLOSE. One of the album's many standouts.

'Within' (featuring Chilly Gonzales)
Random Access Memories is a mix of the massive and the mournful, and here, the tempo drops again. Strictly seventies sounding, 'Within' is reminiscent of a slightly glum cocktail party (Abigail's Party perhaps?) and despite sounding like a slightly less sex-obsessed Chromeo in places, is slightly underwhelming. But perhaps that is simply due to the two tracks it is unfortunate to be sandwiched between...

'Instant Crush' (featuring Julian Casablancas)
If Daft Punk need a second single from the album, they need look no further than this. Their collaboration with Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas screams mainstream from the sense of classic Americana in the guitar opening to the heavily processed vocals. Taking elements of seventies rock sounds rather than the disco scene, Daft Punk work squealing guitars into the track - the likes of which would sound awful on a modern day rock song, but instead sound glorious here. A very big song indeed.

'Lose Yourself to Dance' (featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)
One of two tracks with both Pharrell and Nile Rogers, 'Lose Yourself To Dance' slightly lacks the edge of 'Get Lucky', but when being pitted against one of the biggest hits of 2013, what could compare? More soulful than Daft Punk's chart topping hit, mixing laid back guitar licks and heavy handclaps. 'Lose Yourself To Dance' does stand out as fully representative of why Random Access Memories is so unlike any other dance album released in 2013 - or any other dance album in the past decade. The album is warm and inclusive, and offers an open invitation to any listener, Daft Punk fans new and old, to a party we all want to attend.

Listen to a 15-second snippet of 'Lose Yourself To Dance' below

'Touch' (featuring Paul Williams)
Perhaps the album's most ridiculous moment - and also one of the best. Opening with vintage computerised beats, the like of which you might expect to have heard in an old Dr Who episode, producer Paul Williams delivers a David Bowie-esque vocal, initially sounding like a nightmare-ish robot nightmare.

And then things get really crazy.

As if the electronic production and string section wasn't enough, by the time the choir come into play with their 'Hold on / If Love is the answer' hook, the listener realises there is no way to predict where this one is going, or where it will end. Insanely good.

'Get Lucky' (featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)
Very brilliant indeed.

Listen to 'Get Lucky' below

'Beyond'
A disappointing moment on an otherwise excellent album - largely due to the spectacular opening, which Daft Punk fail to sustain. Beginning like the duo's take on Ride Of The Valkyries, 'Beyond' drops into more melancholy vocodered funk, which, despite the Michael Jackson, 'Beat It' era production style, packs less of a punch than much of RAM.

'Motherhood'
Remember 'Verdis Quo' from Daft Punk's 'Discovery' album? Instrumental track 'Motherhood' sounds very much like a live version of that - and very lovely it is indeed. The track builds to a moderately epic crescendo, and while it pales in comparison to some of the other tracks on the album, is still a solid album moment.

'Fragments of Time' (featuring Todd Edwards)
A hint of lounge jazz comes into play here, on a classy dance track for grown ups. One of the ways Daft Punk succeed with this album is by managing to satisfy their huge, hungry audience, but at no point spoiling things by attempting to sound too young or bending to modern dance expectations. Kitsch, but on the right side of cheesy, the track introduces country and western twangs before picking up pace for a big breakdown and vocodered guitar solo. By the time it reaches its close, 'Fragments Of Time' becomes one of the album's BIG songs - and a potential future single.

'Doin’ It Right' (featuring Panda Bear)
While many tracks on Random Access Memories grow from subtle moments to epic crescendos, 'Doin It Right' does not - and neither does it need to. Ditching the mind-blowing production operatics, Daft Punk take centre stage here with the 'everybody will be dancing and we're feeling it right / everybody will be dancing till they're doing it right' chorus. Panda Bear's vocal contributions are outstanding, as he more than holds his own alongside the album's big names, such as Julian Casablancas and Pharrell Williams.

'Contact' (featuring DJ Falcon)
And here is where things really go crazy. It is surprising that considering how much work went into creating that seventies disco warmth, one of the standout tracks sounds the least organic. Opening with a phone call describing a UFO sighting in the US, this is the album's big, noisy moment - and should Daft Punk tour in 2013, this will raise the roof when performed at gigs. Live drums blend with stunning electronic waves on a mind blowing finale unlike anything that came before it on the previous 12 tracks.

Random Access Memories is not an album that can be fully appreciated in one listen. There is more to digest in many of the tracks here than most bands can pack into an entire album. The album sounds nothing like any of the duo's three previous albums, and yet manages to sound 100% like a Daft Punk record. The wait it over - and boy, was it worth it.

Random Access Memories is release on 20 May 2013.

Below: rare Daft Punk images revealed for the first time

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