Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Daft Punk’s new album Random Access Memories is a lot of things: A masterful years-in-the-making publicity campaign set to music, a showcase of hellaciously expensive decades-old studio craftsmanship, a stunt-casted absurdist music event on the level of the Coachella Tupac hologram, a fascinating example of what happens when pop-star robots go to disco fantasy camp, a reminder that it’s bee too long since you played Off The Wall front-to-back, an example of a hype-wave so deafening that you can almost forget there’s an album behind it. But more than anything, it’s a deeply silly piece of work. It’s the guy who wrote “The Rainbow Connection” wailing that he needs something more over Styx pianos while a vocodered children’s choir answers back that love is the answer. It’s Pharrell crooning about how trying to get laid is like “the legend of the phoenix.” It’s Giorgio Moroder lecturing about click-tracks over a click-track. It’s Julian Casablancas’s gorgeously ragged voice processed beyond all recognition, or a Panda Bear solo song showing up in the middle of a bajillion-dollar dance-pop album for absolutely no reason. It’s “Fragments Of Time,” a far-balder Steely Dan rip than anything on that last Destroyer album. The whole thing is, in its own way, as mercurial a prank as anything Bonnie “Prince” Billy or Ween ever did, and maybe the most amazing thing about the great press rollout has been how little the actual people in Daft Punk have let on that they realize how goofy all this is. But like the best mercurial pranks, the album is also, in its own way, entirely serious.

Everyone else has already commented on it, but you have to admire the moxie here: The two steely-visored self-made icons who have become the shining metallic face of dance music taking a look at the monster they helped to create, then going a radically different direction. In interviews, the two humans in Daft Punk have alleged that they don’t listen to dance music, that they’d originally thought that “EDM” was an actual DJ’s name. But listening to the album, I don’t believe a word of it; these guys have definitely heard enough chintzy Vegas-superclub buildup-breakdown music to absolutely detest it, even if their own minimal thump (and unprecedented faceless stardom) helped that stuff ascend to the point where it’s utterly taken over top-40 radio. So they went into the lab for years, threw their laptops away, and recruited the expensive studio-pop session-musician legends behind disco, the last thumping dance music to take over American airwaves and drive people nuts. Daft Punk and the talking-head supporters being quoted in every magazine profile clearly want Random Access Memories to be a game-changer, a corrective to a popular wave that’s grown too bloated for its own good. I don’t think that’ll happen; game-changing albums rarely come from the top down, from people who have diagnosed problems and strategized on how to fix them. They come from the margins, from people putting together things that they like and then throwing those things out there, like Daft Punk themselves did on Discovery. But in the breadth of its vision, and in the rigorous no-expense-spared attention to detail that went into realizing that vision, Random Access Memories is a pretty breathtaking album.

I’ve already seen a few critics crying rockism, and anytime musicians start extolling the virtues of “real” musicianship over its computerized simulation, that’s a fair charge, even when the musicians in question pretend to be computerized simulations themselves. But when you’re reviving some of the most marginalized, disrespected genres in history, I’m not sure the rockism charge can possibly stick. Random Access Memories isn’t just a disco album; it’s also a soft rock album, a smooth-jazz album, an album of planetarium-soundtrack music, a cheesed-out ’70s Broadway version of a rock album. My coworker Claire Lobenfeld has already likened it to cruise ship music, but at least it’s not one of those cruise ships where everything has broken down and there’s shit everywhere. It’s a gleaming, flawless machine, every guitar-squelch and drum thwack and robotic whoa rendered in extreme hi-fidelity. And the hard, dedicated work that went into making something this grand is, in its own way, kind of moving, the same way it’s kind of moving to watch the credits of Iron Man 3 and look at the names of the armies of computer programmers necessary to make a movie like that happen. And heard in the right context, staring out your window while the sunlight hits a tree in a particular way, the silliest moment on this deeply silly album — I’m thinking in particular of the children’s choir on “Touch,” though you probably have your own pick by now — can be almost heart-stoppingly gorgeous.

I want to talk for a minute about “Giorgio By Moroder.” When I first read that Daft Punk were working with the Italo-disco genius, one of my favorite musicians of all time, I got excited. When I read that Moroder would just be talking on the song, I was utterly flummoxed: This guy is one of the great time-rearranging producers of all time, but he never even sang on his records, and you’re making him just talk? The first time I heard it, As Moroder’s voice first chimed in, with the outside-restaurant background noise behind him, I rolled my eyes. But then it got to the “everybody calls me Giorgio” part, the pause, the brief window of time before one of those spine-chilling Moroder sequencer-burbles kicked in, and my brain just sort of flooded with endorphins and I forget what happened. But after that, the song keeps going on, and on, the different studio-session killers taking turns soloing in their own indulgently jazzy ways. And even though they’re Kubrickian controlling-auteur types, I picture the Daft Punk robots just sitting back in the studio at this point, just kicking their own organic machine into motion and watching it work. That’s not what happens, of course. What happens is that it builds and builds, leaving behind the department-store muzak and transforming into an intense prog-rave opus, like Goblin paying Justice back for the “Phantom Pt. 2″ sample by outdoing Justice at their own game. At first, I wondered how many times I could listen to Moroder explaining his sleeping-in-his car days before I got sick of it. Now, I have trouble listening to anything else.

The rest of the album works like that, too, its hidden treasures already revealing themselves after less than 48 hours. “Instant Crush” and “Beyond” sounded like trifles at first, breaks between the peak moments, but after a few listens I’m already passionately singing along. “Lose Yourself To Dance” sounded clumsy and thin, but it caught me off-guard when I was cleaning my house last night, its deft syncopation, so different from the whump-whump-whump that we’ve accustomed ourselves to, suddenly convincing me that I’m a much better dancer than I actually is. And “Fragments Of Time,” the aforementioned Steely Dan joint, hasn’t snuck up on me that way yet, and maybe it will always sound plasticy and chintzy to me. But now, it seems a whole lot more likely that it’ll sneak up and grab me by the neck at some point in the very near future. Daft Punk songs have a way of doing that. And sure, Random Access Memories is an album about music, an act of curation-as-art more concerned with making a statement about the way we make jams now than in cranking out some immediate summer jams that we’ll all enjoy. It suffers for that, a bit. But the jams are there, and they reveal themselves more every time I hear the album. Maybe it’s not the album that we wanted from Daft Punk. But it’s sure as hell the album that Daft Punk wanted from Daft Punk. And heard in its own terms, that’s a pretty marvelous thing.

Random Access Memories is out 5/21 on Columbia. Stream it at iTunes.

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Comments (132)
  1. It’s good but it’s been over-hyped to death. It doesn’t deserve near the amount of attention it’s gotten.

    • Your parents feel the same way about you.

        • Eh, Typical. Get sarcastically chastised for having a different opinion than getting on ones knees and worshiping this album, sarcastically respond with despondent Patrick, get down votes.

          Bunch of plebes (sarcasm).

          • No, you were chastised for having an opinion devoid of anything except a contrarian attitude. It was overhyped to death? What if you were a person who chose not to pay attention to internet ads and making of vids? How do you exactly decide when something deems attention from others? Hopefully next time you can contribute to the conversation with something insightful to say other than your very personal opinion, which again, was based on hype? Because it was ‘good’ but didn’t deserve so much attention from what you perceived.

          • Also, what I’m talking about can best be exampled by your choice of gif. You want to appear non-caring and nonchalant, which if you really were you wouldn’t post any gif. Say something real next time and you probably won’t be downvoted.

      • My goodness Bryce Bullins are you human or a robot?

        What you just said over the past few comments, sounds like a couple suggestive comments only an A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)* would say to you if you were interacting over a options screen, lets say, when operating a PC or programming software run.

        I’m sorry, but your answers and replies really had no heart, like an empty shell void of all life. A robot. Its like you took the record, stuffed it into a player and just ran through it skipping here and there.

        LOL! XD

        • I truly don’t care about up or downvotes. I was having a bit of fun with the GIF. It happens.

          I expressed an (apparently) unpopular opinion. That’s fine. If other people like this album, hats off to them. I still find it to be bland and nowhere near worth the hype it’s gotten. There’s no substance here for me. If it hadn’t have had an ad campaign as prolific as some politicians I don’t think my expectations would be anywhere near as high. It’s produced extremely well but that just doesn’t save it for me. A lot of these tracks just sound like generic disco. if I had come into this record without seeing and hearing all of hoopla, there is a pretty high chance I might have a different opinion.

          In my defense as well, I never once said it was a “bad” album by any means. It’s definitely solid, there are some danceable tracks and some really good “sit and listen” tunes (“Touch”, for example). I just don’t believe it was worth making about 6 different trailers and teasers over. I’m sorry if that’s not substantial enough reasoning. If I’m at a party and I hear “”Giorgio by Moroder” I’m apt to probably get into it. Hearing it at home on my speakers or my headhones? Ambivalence.

          In short, these just aren’t my jams. If they are yours or anyone else’s, cool. We’ll agree to disagree. For the record, I’m not robotic.

          Anyway, enjoy whatever it is you may be listening to, be it this album or something else.

  2. neutral

  3. this album could well resurrect and bring the overdue appreciation of the musical careers of giorgio moroder/paul williams

  4. “Fragments of Time” is my favorite thing on the album. They started with what “Digital Love” winked at and simply went all in this time.

  5. So is “Doin it Right” good? All I know it’s been in my head for the past several hours.

    • Panda Bear vox is so hard to dig in this track, even with three supporting android vocod vox

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

        • Not to mention he’s saying

          “If you lose your way tonight, that’s how you know the magic’s right.”

          I mean, I can’t be the only one who cringes from half the lyrics on this album.

    • It’s one of my current favorites. Was just listening to it in the car on my way into work and that bass KICKS!

      I guess it doesn’t bother me when Panda Bear’s voice enters the equation because his voice is always a welcome sound. If anything I wish it was longer.

      “Doin’ It Right” along with “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Give Life Back to Music” are the most immediate dance tracks on this album. I’d consider those the “bangers” even though they don’t bang, per se, but they do make my body want to get up and dance.

      I mean, I wasn’t alive during the disco heyday, so maybe that’s why I enjoy getting down to these cuts?

      • I’d argue that the Panda Bear parts hold “Doin’ It Right” back from it’s full banger potential.

        I’m leaving work in about ten minutes, I’ll probably listen to it 2 or 3 times on the way home. There is definately a lot to like about it and I generally love Panda Bear.

        • It feels almost like a concession at that point of the album. Almost as if they realize how far out of space they went with this one and decided to throw a few of us a bone.

          I agree Panda Bear’s voice doesn’t really take me to dance nirvana, but given it’s the penultimate track, it works as a “last dance” moment on the album. Bittersweet in that it’s a lot of fun but it also means the album is almost finished (which I guess is a good thing for some?)

          Just noticed p4k bnt’d it. I’m cool with it. It’s definitely an ear worm.

        • the panda bear song is the worst on the album…its totally out of place and somehow his vocals ruin what could have been a great track….he’s singing wayyyyy too on the beat…annoying…

    • Everyone on the comment party seemed to be all “yay Panda Bear killed it” but I can’t for the life of me remember any of his vocals in that song. I’ve got the “Doin’ it right, everybody will be dancing and be doin’ it right…” etc stuck in my head though

  6. This is a good opinion piece. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this album since it “leaked” earlier this week. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but your thoughts helped at least lead me on another path of thinking.
    The whole release and hype has had me thinking about the idea of “hype” and promotions today and whether it is actually harmful rather than helpful. I feel like Daft Punk pushed the album hard but also left so much to imagination, so much that expectations in some minds climbed to exponential heights. So when it did finally release, listeners were either majorly disappointed or, like me, very confused and flustered. Maybe that’s the point: for DP to make listeners think about their music rather than just enjoy it. I don’t know, but I do know it’s confusing the hell out of me.

  7. The moment when “Touch” finishes and “Get Lucky” kicks in made me kick my chair away and dance. Favorite moment in this album for sure.

  8. i don’t care who you are or what you say, “Giorgio by Moroder” is better than you

  9. The whole album is just one giant great homage. It’s 75mins of them dickriding their disco influencers. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just expected some better.

    • That’s sort of true – but I think they took the disco of the 70s further than it ever was back then (I love 70s disco!), so as I said in the comments party, I don’t hear that they looked back and got stuck in the 70s. Instead they added another century in between 1979 and 1980 where they have managed to develop the 70s disco music without the influence of the 80s.

      So yes it is a homage to their heroes, but it’s so well done that they took it further than their heroes ever did.

  10. is it weird that just reading “everybody calls me Giorgio” sent chills down my spine?

  11. I feel like a snake eating a rabbit whole.

    It’ll be at least a week before it passes through my system and I can determine whether it’s tasty or not.

  12. If this and The National album both got Premature Evaluations, them what is going to be next week’s Album of the Week?

  13. so, in conclusion, let’s just wait and see? shouldn’t that be the theme for all “premature evaluations”?

  14. This maybe totally off since I’ve only listened to this album once but to me this album is to disco what Destroyer’s Kaputt was to 80′s soft rock.

  15. This is irrefutably Daft Punk’s magnum opus. Probably their most epic album to date. This is essentially their concept album, as it directly picks up the themes from Human After All.

    RAM in a sense is the androids having an existential crisis of their failed attempts to blend in with society, evaluating themselves after an extended hiatus, and eventually achieving the singularity. The theory of human and machine fusing as one. If you analyze the lyrics in “Within” “Touch” its well indicated. The build up in the 2001 space odyssey ambience of “Contact” is the final transformation of them becoming…wait for it……..human after all.

    After giving it a few listens, its defiantly ranks up there with Discovery. But knowing how elaborate this album is, its should be entitled RE-Discovery.

    • Others here will downvote you for comparing RAM to Discovery, but it’s the only other Daft Punk album that I could possibly compare it to as well. The variation from track to track, how it holds your hand and takes you higher and then cradles you gently when it brings you down in between tracks.

      And I sort of see the connection between Kaputt and this album, but insofar as Kaputt was my favorite album of 2011 and this album, with a few more listens, will be a contender for top spot at the end of this year, I can see it.

      Also can we just stop talking about “expectations” and “too much hype” at this point? Fuck hype, fuck your expectations, those things should not hold ANY weight on how the music SOUNDS. I can’t wait to have a physical copy of this, yes I’ll agree, magnum opus.

      • agreed on the Discovery comparisons. The instrumentation is different, but thematically it’s very similar. Also, a lot of tracks like Digital Love, Something About Us, Beyond, Contact etc could be swapped and it would be hard to tell the difference for a newcomer to the band.

        I think a lot of people are turned off by the disco-y and soft rock sounds. For my money, though, the goofy piano showtune breakdown in Touch is the best thing ever. People take DP very seriously…a lot more than they take themselves. And I think it hurts their appreciation of this album.

      • Theyre similar albums cause of how ambitious they are. But RAM is so dense and impeccably structured, just when you think you’ve heard something which feels a little off, the next listen you realize that it’s a crucial moment in the record. “Within” instantly stuck out to me as this incredibly weird, slight piano ballad that comes out of nowhere but now I honestly couldn’t imagine the album without it. It only takes up 3 minutes of a 74-minute album so it’s not like they needed padding, it’s clearly something they wouldn’t have kept it on unless it had a purpose and it really is this perfect, mood-setting break in between “Giorgio” and “Instant Crush”. Every single thing on this album feels like it was a conscious decision made over months and years of discussion and work so even trying to instantly pick it apart and decide what’s filler and what’s not seems like an insult to the amount of time and effort put into making it a perfect album.

        • “Within” is soooooo necessary. It’s the biggest example of what I was referencing when I said, “…cradles you gently when it brings you down…”

          After my first listen of “Giorgio by Moroder” I was so leveled and borderline exhausted from keeping up with that tracks MANY beautiful details. Then with that outro where it…. oh fuck I can’t describe it but ya’ll have heard it! It drains me! There is no way I would’ve been able to handle going right into another dance number after that track.

          Enter “Within”

          It’s a perfect piano melody that rolls around your head without leaving me behind on the journey. Then I feel with “Instant Crush” they’re still building you back up to the bigger dance numbers. It reminded me of the two chill tracks, also in the #4 & #5 slots, on My Bloody Valentine’s album. A good part in the album to stop, take a breath, and then continue on with the bizness.

      • I’m with you on “fuck the hype.” Seriously, the lead single was the most disco thing ever. Did people really expect another Discovery after hearing “Get Lucky?”

      • Sheeyit, RJ.

  16. Contact is freaking amazing!

  17. I believe it’s because I look at every cd as a new place for any artist, but when i heard this cd it was incredible. I don’t know, the departure from what was expected by the masses drew me in even more. Then you get to listening to it and it feels more like a transcendent lesson as opposed to an alternative to EDM. I like this cd, a lot, and I don’t say that often. Hell I can’t stand EDM, sober.

  18. I wanted so much to like this, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Like many, this isn’t the album I wanted from Daft Punk. An album with maybe two dance songs from one of the greatest dance bands of all time qualifies as a letdown in my book. But that’s not a dealbreaker; above all, I wanted a quality album in whatever form. What is a dealbreaker is a lack of good songs, and that’s the bigger problem here.

    First of all, the bangers do not bang. Instant Crush, Lose Yourself to Dance, and Doin’ It Right sound stilted and skeletal. Each of these chugs or clunks along trying to find a groove, and it just never happens. There’s just no reason to return to these tracks when acts like Classixx and Denver have just released some insanely good modern disco. Get Lucky is the best of this lot, and it got old for me fast after never really taking off in the first place.

    the quieter songs here seem like they’re trying to capture the vibe of past triumphs like Make Love and Something About Us, but instead they just noodle along limply before bowing out. Those vocodered lines in The Game of Love just sound so awkward and exposed, it’s cringe worthy. Within is 80s soft rock that I can’t imagine anyone enjoying, and Beyond nails the vibe but forgets the song.

    The audacious songs are the most interesting, but they’re nothing I’ll listen to on a regular basis. Which pretty much leaves me with Fragments of Time, an actually really sweet and groovy slice of soft rock that I’ll want to listen to over and over again in the glow of summer sunsets.

    tl;dr I know. But I really think this band is getting a pass because people are desperate to believe in them again and have been waiting so long. But just because RAM’s ambition eclipses HAL’s doesn’t make it a better record, and this is another huge disappointment for me.

  19. But…I just spent three paragraphs rating it for what it is. My only expectation, other than a good album, was a few more dance songs. And I was fine with not getting them if the album was good. In my opinion, it’s not good at all.

  20. Oops meant to hit reply, of course.

  21. When you hear “Contact”, at the end of the album, you realize that all the hype was a little justified.

  22. You know that feeling of anticipatory excitement that comes as track fades out because you know the best one’s next?

    That’s this entire album for me. Absolute AOTY so far.

  23. RAM is getting better every time I listen to it. It’s easy to be turned off by the disco tracks, but the back half of the album is so diverse, I can’t imagine not finding something to like.

    One issue might be that you can’t really dance to it…none of the tracks have a fast enough tempo, except for maybe Get Lucky. It’s more of a groove album. So I suspect it’ll be a flop in clubs and with young people (until the inevitable remixes), but appreciated by music nerds.

  24. “prog-rave opus” – perfect

  25. Just you wait guys. I predict a resurgence of yacht rock. Kids legitimately enjoying and finding influence from Michael McDonald and Christopher Cross. The whole disco trend happened in the 00s, when it was called dancepunk. Bands like The Rapture, !!!!, The Bravery, LCD Soundsystem. But yeah, lets bring back smooth jazz/yacht rock to the masses!!!

  26. 1st Listen: What??
    2nd Listen: Hmm…
    3rd Listen: Ohhhhhh.
    4th Listen: YES.

    Screw the hype and your expectations. Appreciate the album for what it is, don’t measure it against what it isnt’. I’ll admit, it felt really uneven and kinda forgettable (aside from the standouts) the first time around… but now I’m looooving it, especially the slow robo-jams. Game of Love, Beyond, and Fragments of Time felt like muzak at first, but damn they are JAMS. It’s official, I think I (mostly) love this album. Still iffy about Pharrell, and can’t help but think Justin Timberlake would’ve been better on those tracks.

    • Getting JT would’ve been cool but I think it could’ve turned into too much of a JT song instead of a Daft Punk song. Pharell is neutral enough to provide the sound while not taking over the track.

  27. I think it’s also worth pointing out that the vast majority of criticism towards this album (not just here, but all over the internet) is focusing on the hype, personal expectations, “daft punk vs EDM,” and what the album is apparently “missing.” Its kinda sad, because the production, arrangement, and mixing on this album is phenomenal; this is definitely one of the best sounding albums I’ve heard in while. I mean, it sounds like BUTTAH.

    What I’ve always loved about electronic music was how talented producers perfectly sculpt and manicure sounds and create atmospheric worlds for your brain to swim in. I always wanted electronic music to be more popular, and that’s what has bugged me most about the whole EDM/Dubstep movement: obviously the music has become derivative and formulaic, but the biggest reason I don’t like is that it sounds like fucking shit. It’s like getting fucked in the ear by screeching synths, hissing white noise, and irritating bass squelches. It has all the subtlety of jackhammer.

    Another reason why I’m liking RAM more and more: every single sound on it- the guitar plucks, the snare hits, the synthesizer tones- sound rich and luscious. It’s obvious that the duo when to painstaking measure to create this album. This is quite the counterpoint to not only EDM, but also their own Human After All, which was recorded in only two weeks (and definitely sounds like it was).

    • Your first paragraph is RIGHT on point. Kudos. It’s also worth noting that TOO MUCH of the criticism has been made after one listen. I don’t think anything can be properly judged after one listen.

      The “hype” and “personal expectation” factors are huge in determining public opinion on a record. A similar thing happened with Centipede Hz (the latest example I can think of). That’s actually rewarding album. Once I laid aside the expectations of what I was HOPING for, I was able to really enjoy it. CentHz, like RAM, is rewarding if you’ll allow it to be.

      As someone who’s never too much though to Daft Punk but was sorta swept up in the hype (because, really, how could ignore it??), I think the album’s pretty good. After two listens I think it’s pretty nice. I want to listen to it again, not just because it’s a pleasant listen but because people are getting so bent out of shape about it. It’s kinda fun watching people get SO invested in something they, ultimately, have nothing to do with.

      Because, really, this is not your music. it’s Daft Punk’s. And Daft Punk doesn’t owe anyone anything. They play music, and if you like it, you’ll like. If not, well, you’ll move on to some other artistic to lay expectations on.

      But anyway…

  28. Is that Dennis Deyoung singing on “Touch?”

  29. The problem isn’t the lack of club bangers, the problem is as Luke pointed out this album is just not very good. RAM is ambitious so at least Daft Punk should be commended for not making a can’t be arsed record this time (unlike HAA) but in the end this album is neither particulary fun, nor danceable or emotionally moving. They’re trying to capture the beating heart of the 70-80s but instead of emulating Chic they end up being some cheesy robo cover band playing generic disco on a cruise ship. Sure, it’s not a total failure: the ending of Giorgio is quite good, so is Contact and Get Lucky is a decent enough summer hit. But this really pales in comparison to Discovery, an album I still consider being one of the best of the 00s.

    And seriously, people did have unrealistic expectations towards this album but it’s not like Daft Punk aren’t guilty of creating this themself cause I’ve rarely seen such a well-oiled hype machine leading up to the release of an album. It doesn’t help that they’re pretty arrogant about it and people involved in this project are posturing like they really are robots from outer space coming to earth to save unworthy mankind from bad electronic music (shouldn’t be surprised other electronic artists were making snarky remarks about this album on social media). For a band who hasn’t released any decent studio album in more than a decade and who’s last album is usually seen as a total failure this seems rather unjustified. Between Bowie, MBV, Godspeed and a few others it seems the music business is the only place where not doing a god damn thing for a decade is actually rewarded in this age of big comebacks.

    But the biggest facepalm in this whole story should be directed at the professional critics. I mean, this album has been hyped up towards the stratosphere in about every music publications based on… well, based on what exactly? I mean, I think nobody will deny the relevance of Daft Punk on dance music so a decent level of coverage would’ve been fairly normal but that’s not what happened here. Nope, many prominent publications decided this was going to be a game-changer right from the start before they, you know… actually heard the music. Nevermind that this thing actually was going to feature a lot of things critics aren’t usually fond of, nope: they all started acting like a disco-revival featuring Pharrell Williams and a lot of cheesy bombast was exactly the thing the entire music community was waiting for all these years. After that, there were those early “hyper-exclusive” embargo-breaking reviews (Q I’m looking at you) more often than not based on one listen journalists were allowed to undergo at their label, not exactly the kind of ideal circumstances that allow journalists to form a decent opinion on this record but nevertheless more than enough for a few media to declare this an unquestionable bona fide masterpiece. Then their were cover stories and interviews that were often incredibly sycophantic in nature… If the guys from Daft Punk didn’t already think they were going to be the saviours of modern music, critics sure did everything to make them feel like that. It all turned into some next level Emperors new clothes stuff.

    But then people actually heard this album the day before yesterday and guess what… turns out it’s not that good or at least not worth the ridiculous hyperbole music journalists were throwing at it and because of that a lot of people ended up being very disappointed. So now there is confusion among media: some journalists are backtracking a bit but since bravery and admitting their mistakes isn’t usually their strong suit this is just a small minority, others like Pitchfork are acting like nothing happened and gearing up for a review that will probably the biggest overrating since Rolling Stone gave No Line on the Horizon 5 stars, some write a review making apologies for Daft Punk (I read one today that called it “Disney on Ice” but apparently that’s a good thing cause it’s Daft Punk! Uh-huh) yet others go the most cowardly way (something that unfortunatly seems to be supported by people who do like this record): claiming this is still a masterpiece and we, the music journalists were right all along, accusing disappointed fans this album is just not what they expected and everyone who dislikes this does this only because they expected something different. That’s probably the cheapest and most lazy strawman in the book, imposing their idea of what people were expecting just to justify their own blind fuelling of the hype machine in face of impending backlash. Well, maybe next time they should form a critical consencus after the fact and not before it, that’s their god damn job after all. Maybe it’s me, but I expect something different from critics than a bunch of completely uncritical bandwagoning, I hope something is to be learned from this clusterfuck cause rarely has music journalism in general looked so bad.

    Sorry for the long ass rant. ;) Yeah, I’m talking a lot about the hype-cycle but as long as fans are acting like people who aren’t overly enamoured with this album are idiots with expectations that were wrong or simply too high I think it’s justified. If you like it, by all means enjoy it but maybe fans should start considering it’s just not that very good for a lot of people.

  30. What’s niggling is, that there are no outright bangers– Instead of a mad rave, we have mid tempo shuffles, 70s Studio 54 disco arrangements and Disney moments via Paul Williams. While it is not a bad album, why do I keep getting visions of bell bottoms and roller skates? Why is something new so instantly nostalgic?

  31. i know this goes contrary to everything the blogosphere rants and raves about, but i can’t help but think everyone has been so blinded by the legend of daft punk they’re willing to throw whatever accolades they can at this. homework is a great album that still holds up, and discovery makes a case for album of the millennium, but honestly, who in their right mind, after human after all and the tron legacy soundtrack, had their hopes up for 12 long years thinking we were going to get a record that would trump those efforts? and since their material for the past decade has had diminishing returns, why are people still standing on the front lines ready to defend them?

    they may be able to define a specific genre of electronic music (“house”), the robot-costume image that’s worked so well for them, and some pretty indelible and memorable dance singles, but it’s always been difficult for me to understand the infatuation people have had with them, almost to the point of sanctity, especially when there are other much more fruitful returns to be gained from other 90s groups like the chemical brothers. over the past decade, i personally have never understood why the indie press has refused to carry a torch for the chemical brothers instead of daft punk. their live show is just as amazing, they have a wealth of great material to draw from, their track record for quality albums is much more consistent. even their best album, dig your own hole, does in fact hold a torch to discovery. and the case could be argued that the chemical brothers have done more for the current state of edm than daft punk. i guess i could see how some could regard the chemical brothers’ breakbeats as repetitive and the lower-end bass a little obnoxious, but i can’t think of many other electronic groups that bridge that gap between party-ready anthems and electro-psychedelica so seamlessly. we’ve only occasionally gotten that from daft punk. i can definitely return to discovery now and again, but i can just as easily go back to dig your own hole, or surrender, or even further, and i can get what i’m looking for.

    with random access memories, everyone keeps saying “listen to it again, let it absorb maaaaan,” but i can’t help but think my reticence to automatically dub this amazing on every level has less to do with cynicism than it does the fact that there isn’t much there to hold on to. great, they took a chance, the production is fantastic, but that’s about it. a few spots are interesting, but if i can’t latch onto this by the second listen, unless someone sits me down and orders me to hear it for a third and fourth time, why would i bother with returning to it again?

    • Yeah, except I’ve never really listened to Daft Punk; not much at all. And I love it. So how am I blinded by their legend?

      • ok, so i’m automatically wrong because one person becomes the exception? that comment wasn’t even necessarily directed at someone like yourself.

    • I had never cared for Daft Punk either and now I’m totally in love with this album.

    • i realize there’s a lot of room for argument with what i said, but i feel i need to preface this comment with a little more context, at least before more people start replying with “you’re dead wrong dude, never heard or liked daft punk before, love this album”-type diatribes:

      i’m not calling you guys outright liars, but i have a pretty difficult time believing that none of you have ever liked or appreciated discovery before you even heard this album this week. i have an even more difficult time believing that you’ve never even heard discovery. and truly, the hardest argument, to me, would for me to believe you never liked/heard “around the world” or “da funk” before you heard the new album.

      but what truly drives me nuts is that anyone could listen to random access memories, read every negative comment about it posted by a stereogum user this week, take those things into account without ever having listened to or appreciated any previous daft punk material, and still be like, “dude, great album, haters keep hatin.” sorry guys. i mean really.

      • It bothers you that someone can like this album instead of following suit of a majority of anonymous posts on a blog?

        • there’s a majority here? i can’t think of any album discussed on stereogum in recent memory as heavily debated as this one with such a split opinion.

      • Of course I’ve heard and jammed to “Around the World,” “Da Funk,” “Harder Better Faster Stronger,” “One More Time,” and the like, but I’ve never listened to Discovery all the way through, and I’ve never really spent much time listening to Daft Punk’s discography. They just weren’t my thing as much as other things.

        But you can’t just say that, objectively, this album is bad. People have opinions, and it may bother you that people like the album when you don’t, but the fact is that music is subjective. I think Random Access Memories is a fantastic album, I can’t stop listening to it, and I could write a lot about the musical merit that I think it has. But that doesn’t mean that I’m “right.” It doesn’t mean that the album is definitely good and others are stupid to not see it. And that’s the same reasoning that says that you can’t tell me I’m wrong to like this album for whatever bullshit reasons you come up with.

        Sorry, man. I mean really.

        • buddy, i don’t care if you like ram or if you don’t. and i’m not disturbed by the idea that other people here like it. a few have brought up a couple reasons that could actually make the case for me to give it another try. but i stand by my reasons, and i’m pretty firm in the idea that history will prove me right. this album is kind of a flop.

          i already mentioned that my reasoning wasn’t directed at people like yourself. if you want to continue using the reason “oh, well this my introduction to daft punk, so as an unwitting music fan who is largely unfamiliar with their material, me liking this album means it’s good,” then by all means, i can respect that argument. but not to mention the fact it’s largely untrue by your own admission. in fact, having “jammed” to them, that’s not exactly not listening to them “not much at all.” so, yeah, credibility.

          • They’ve built a mystique around them that has lent itself to the hype and hero worship, of course. But more than that, go turn on the radio for a few songs and try to find a single that doesn’t have an element of Daft Punk’s sound in it. For one reason or another, modern pop music has been HUGELY shaped out of Daft Punk’s influence. Now, whether you like the results or not is one thing, but their legend and status as one of the most imitated and influential groups of the past 20 years is undeniable. That’s where the hype is coming from.

            I sill haven’t listened to the album yet, so I have no opinion as far as that goes. It seems there are quite a few that dislike it for similar reasons as you, but assuming history will align with your perpective is a bit of a stretch at this point, don’t you think? People didn’t exactly fall head over heels for Discovery upon it’s release either, infact quite the opposite. But as of now, from what I can tell, this is easily the most critically acclaimed release from the group. (http://www.metacritic.com/person/daft-punk)

          • i’m not disputing that their influence isn’t there. but i hardly think that it’s reflected in the bullshit that’s on pop radio right now. homework was definitely influential with european dance music, and that never really made a huge splash here until as of the past few years. and discovery, whose importance i don’t want to deflate or dismiss, might’ve kept that going if only for a couple more years, but that runs up against popular dance music’s absence from most of the ’00s. and that’s really when daft punk was supposedly “influential” enough to lay the groundwork for modern edm. my argument is if it was ever there, it barely was. and that’s not to say dozens of other bands didn’t help make that push. i am not definitely saying you are wrong, but it’s kind of a tall order to say they’re THE group that defines dance music now.

            and i know i can’t predict the future and say that this album will undeniably go down in history as a huge disappointment, but in the scope of daft punk’s career, it probably won’t help their legacy, especially the one people have built up in the past 5 years or so. you’re 100% correct in that assessment of discovery, but to think people will make a turnabout twice on one artist in a single decade? i really don’t think that’s happened for any artist of the modern era. i don’t even particularly think this hurts daft punk’s legacy, but sometimes i think people need to realize it’s okay for an artist to have a misstep or two in their careers.

          • I’m not saying all their influence is “good” necessarily, but it is undoubtedly everywhere. To say their influence was limited to Europe or even the EDM craze in ludicrous. So many of the giant mainstream R&B and pop singles on American radio can be traced to Daft Punk. I’ve heard songs by Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, Kanye, Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, and many others where my first initial thought was “That sounds like Daft Punk.”
            Again, I’m not saying the influence has yielded favorable results. And I’m not even saying they are “THE group that defines dance music now” (though you incorrectly credited me with suggesting as much). But their hand is all over contemporary pop music, both European and American. And that’s not even touching the numerous indie groups that are directly influenced by their sound.

            Anyway, my point isn’t to argue with your take on the album or anything. I think you are right, the hype machine is in overload with them and that can have a blinding affect. I for one am glad I haven’t heard it before seeing the blog reactions. I appreciate that I can digest it with the various sides in mind.

          • okay, even if you’re not saying they’re THE most influential electronic act in the new millenium, i’d still have to disagree with you to the degree of their influence. i wouldn’t say i’m especially well-versed with the catalogues of the radio suspects you mention, but aside from vocoders and pitch-shifting, apparently i don’t hear what you’re hearing. i do hear a bit of a house influence, and i do think that daft punk, for me at least, is probably the group that defines house music but not necessarily its creator. but i don’t think the music you describe is influenced by the house music daft punk makes.

            it’s a bit of quibbling i’m not entirely interested in continuing, mostly because it’s a little like arguing about nothing, but i just can’t help but feel like people hold daft punk’s legacy in everything edm. to me, they’re a couple of guys with really cool robot costumes, two great albums and a handful of classic songs that did influence, but not necessarily to the degree that people think they did. and i also don’t think they’re as great as people say, obviously.

          • Yeah. Agree to disagree at this point. I’m probably hearing these influences because of being a fan, too. If you aren’t that taken by them in the first place, it’s probably not something that turns your head. I could run-off a list of specific songs that show what I’m talking about if you were interested and I wasn’t so lazy.
            If I may be so bold in an assumtion, you obviously have never really appreciated them and are therefore a bit resentful of the fact that many people adore them, even to the point of blindly falling behind a potentially mediocre album (again, haven’t heard it yet myself). That’s cool if you don’t enjoy them, but to overlook or shrug off their obvious influence over pop music in the last decade is unfortunate when assessing the hype machine.

  32. For some reason I think of this analogy. Probably due to where the time inspiration took place but:

    Homework is their Resevoir Dog, Discovery is their Pulp Fiction, Human After All is their Jackie Brown, and this is definitely their Kill Bill. It’s their most ambitious work today with many guests in it including people who they have admired and were influenced by. More than ever, they wear their influences on their sleeves.

    It might not be their best, but it’s definitely fun and one cool ride.

  33. Albums a straight up hot mess, but nonetheless an engaging listen. Don’t know what all the hoopla is around being this great big radical change in musical direction. It’s certainly a change of pace for them, but Daft Punk still drips through the pores of these songs. They just went a little retro imo.

  34. Pretty good, but not deserving of the hype it’s gotten (but albums rarely are). I do like the ‘new’ sound though. Funky as fuck.

    And am I the only one who’s in love with “Doin’ in Right”? I think it’s one of the stronger songs on the album but all it seems to get is hate from the comments I’ve read here. It’s summer drive-with-the-windows-down at night music if I’ve ever heard it.

  35. It’s pretty good. A lot of cool little musical moments to geek out on, and the last three songs are money, but it’s a little bloated. Whoever edited “Get Lucky” down to the radio version should have gone ahead and edited the whole thing (only slightly kidding).

    I do admire Daft Punk’s willingness to just fucking go for it, though, I will definitely give The Robots that. A few more Summer Dance Anthems and/or Club Bangers would’ve been welcome, but Disclosure’s debut is coming out soon, so…

    I guess what I’m saying is: I like it, and now I will go back to listening the new National album.

  36. Issues:

    1. Album Cover: They had a great theme going. Why change course and go with a picture of their robot helmets for what is their least robotic album? I remember seeing a glittery version of the Daft Punk logo in the first SNL ad. Why not that?

    2. Track Sequence: Why are there two of the first four tracks slow jams? Why are the songs with guest vocals all bunched together?

    3. Production: I’m really surprised at the blandness of some of the production elements. There’s little to no variation in the drum tracks, and the vocoders sound pretty stock as well. They sound like what would be basic presets on a drum machine or talkbox.

    4. Collaborations: These sound poorly thought out and underutilized. Why Pharrell? Was he really the best fit for that song? “Get Lucky” sounds like they sat Nile Rodgers down, had him play the first four disco chords that popped into his head, and just went with it. “Doin’ It Right” sounds like they played Panda Bear the beat, had him sing the first melody that popped into his head, and just went with it. Julian Casablancas fared better, but not by much, because even the most tossed-off Strokes songS have dynamite melodies. Exceptions: Giorgio Moroder and Paul Williams…nice work, guys.

    • Ask why less in life. Even if you had the answers to your questions you will most likely remain unsatisfied. Why did you ask so many questions? Why do you have to know? Why would it change your perception of the album? If they had a great answer for you would your appreciation go up? Just accept it for what it is and respect the choices made as simply that, choices made, by the creators of something.

  37. Surely I’m not the only who thinks this is sort of…bad. Bad as in flat/bland. I am starting to recognize that some of the songs are more interesting than I first thought, but I still can’t shake the fact that I don’t like any of them.

    • no, you’re not. i mean, it definitely seems to be a grower, but i’ve listened to it a few times and it’s still not really doing too too much for me. some catchy, head-bobbing moments here and there, but that’s about it. i can get on board with the flat/bland assessment; although i have to admit that i’m liking it a *bit* more with each spin. but then again, i’ve never been one of those OMG DAFT PUNK people, like they’re the end-all-be-all of electronic music. i can’t help but feel that there’s some serious hiveminding going on with how people perceive this group.

      and i do, for the record, really dig some slick, disco-y electronic music. but as far as that stuff goes, i’m liking this new classixx album way more than RAM..

    • You’re absolutely not. Lots of people are praising the production, but the production doesn’t help me when I find the songs so bad. There’s lots of times that people are falling all over themselves to praise an album, and even though that album isn’t my thing, I see why they enjoy it. But this isn’t one of those times. For me, this is flat, bland, dull, uninspired, you name it. I hate to accuse people of liking something just because they want so much to like it, but my ears are bewildered that there could be any other reason for professing to like this. To each their own, though.

      • Cool. Yeah, that’s comforting. I like to think I have a discerning ear, and I was starting to wonder if my reaction was an anomaly, haha. But I love that other people love it so much. I just like coffee a lot more than this cup of tea.

    • Indeed. Thing about the hype is: a lot of music journalists seem to have bet on the wrong horse here, fuelling the hype machine relentlessly and proclaiming this more or less as the AOTY before they actually heard the album. Rarely have professional critics ever looked so bad as with this album, maybe next time they should form a critical consencus after the fact. And now a lot of people seem to dislike it so in the face of impending backlash you see the predictable, classic strawman “this is still a stone cold classic people who don’t like it just expected something different!” kind of reviews popping up. But no, the problem is not that people expected something different or only club bangers, the problem here is it’s just not that good. RAM is ambitious so at least Daft Punk should be commended for not making a can’t be arsed record this time (unlike HAA) but in the end this album is neither particulary fun, nor danceable or emotionally moving. They’re trying to capture the beating heart of the 70-80s but instead of emulating Chic they end up being some cheesy robo cover band playing generic disco on a cruise ship. Sure, it’s not a total failure: the ending of Giorgio is quite good, so is Contact and Get Lucky is a decent enough summer hit. But this really pales in comparison to both their best work and the music from the 70s they tried to emulate (unless they really went for elevator music), it really is blandsville.

      • People keep saying the critics are eating crow and look really bad after building this hype, but from what I can see most critics love the thing. According to Metacritic, it’s easily their highest rated album http://www.metacritic.com/music/random-access-memories/daft-punk

        Where’s the disconnect you are talking about?

        • Metacritic is a gross (as in disgusting) standard for valuing something. A lot of those numbers are almost arbitrary. When there is an absence of a numbered score in an article, metacritic assigns one based on the “feel” of the article. Highly questionable.

          • That doesn’t change a thing. Regardless of it’s exact accuracy, it’s a fairly decent aggregator of critical consensus (even if “exact numbers” are questionable). My point is, from what I’ve seen, a majority of critics seem to enjoy the album.

            If you can find me a “more accurate” summary of the opposite, then by all means enlighten me.

  38. Good article.

    At this point, I’m so glad I’ve waited to listen to it. The extreme back and forth about the album has tempered the hype a bit, and also thrown in a bit of fear, which can be healthy for expectations. I feel like I can approach this album from a level-headed perspective now.

    And I can’t wait.

  39. Sweet Jeeze, this is the best! When they replace the depressing Weezer cruises with glorious time-machine powered Daft Punk themed yacht-rock cruises, I don’t care if we’re voyaging into the past or future…. I’m showing up with my gilded boat shoes and dancing.

  40. Also, Giorgio sounds like Werner Herzog… Is he Italian or German?

  41. The album doesn’t make me want to dance so much as strut and point.

  42. I wanted to love this album with all of my being, but I can’t I find myself repelled by it. I’m sorry to Daft Punk, Myself and everyone. It’s honestly mostly because of the hype too, the amount of slow building hype (Which is fittingly like a lot of their songs themselves, DP mastered that draw the shit out of a song/buildup technique) this album got just choked the shit out of it for me and I find it impossible to actually get past that. I think I’ll revisit it in a few years once this hype has cleared from my brain.

    R.A.M. I love you but this hype is bringing me down, catch ya later!

    • *Also to add: I can’t remember who said it or whatever but someone on here brought up the fact that the early stream was anti-climactic after the huge promo before, that was the wrong move I believe, completely defied the point of the whole thing they built up in the time preceding it.

      • That’s why I still haven’t listened to it yet. Hype’s a bitch, and I’m smackin’ her up this time.

        • Don’t believe in hype. Its just a marketing gimmick to thrust everyone to buy a record, go with instincts. A gut feeling. Try that, you’d be surprised how much I found out about music that way and its fun!
          I’m not asking you to buy this record, but just try it. As with any new record. Listen to snippets is the best option. Because if you buy the record and get disappointed, you would have wasted your money and therefore, give the album a bad rep. If you can listen to the promo (IF ANY)* or any music from any new record, listen to it,
          DO NOT PRE-ORDER, unless you’re so certain, again you’ll get disappointed when you don’t like a record. Try people, just try! Just give a try. =)

          • Oh I had every intention of listening to it. I just wanted to wait until I had it in my hand. And that time was today. (See my reaction below)

  43. Whether one loves or hates or can’t make up their mind about it, the robots were successful in getting people talking about the music. I mean, after all, was all this really about the music anyway? Or was the music secondary to the hype, the creation etc… Great opinion piece though.

  44. I’ve been listening to a lot of Daft Punk of late in anticipation (duh – obviously – haven’t we all!), and Human After All is much better than I remembered. Maybe it’s cos my perspective of some of the tracks have changed because of Alive 2007, but in retrospect, I think we’re dismissing it a little too much.
    My trouble with RAM is that I’m always very wary of artwork about artwork. Whether it’s Hugo or The Artist, or something like this. I still haven’t decided how I feel about it. It feels a bit too consciously concerned with its own impact and what it says about music. It doesn’t have the revelatory feel of Homework or Discovery, but what fourth album can capture that feeling of discovery?
    For all my issues, though, it just keeps getting better and better. It might be too nostalgic, and some of the lyrics still sound incredibly corny, but I can’t help but enjoy it.

  45. Well..the drums in this records are incredibly bland, really bad.

    Yeah, come at me bros.

  46. Three thoughts:

    1. So many of you said the hype of an album effects your ability to listen to it. Try really hard not to be this type of person anymore.

    2. Whenever somebody attempts to put down this album by saying it would go over well with their parents, it makes me think you were hoping for more dub step.

    3. I’m LOVING this album. It’s sounds like the soundtrack for a remake of Saturday Night Fever that takes place on the moon.

    • I got a reply from someone by e-mail, nicely telling me to stuff this record in my mouth. In other words, they just didn’t like it, whilst I did. I gave the “person” a three A4 paged e-mail letter stating about my decision to get Daft Punks new album. The reply I got was just “…” in an e-mail.

      I want to enjoy this record, I do it with every album off any genre in music, no questions.

      Some people can be so scary and serious. Its music to enjoy, not fight verbal egotistical wars over.

      LMAO! XD

  47. finally. same thoughts here.

  48. going all in on a disco homage with some of the greatest musicians from the era sounds like a fine and dandy idea on paper. but when the execution is as scatter shot and self indulgent as this, it becomes less of an homage and more of just a shitty attempt at a disco album. i would argue that justice already executed this much much better. as they brought prog and the sounds of the 80s into their style where daft has done the opposite and brought splashes of their style to run of the mill disco songs. and as far as cheesy lyrics and such, digital love and something about us are cheesy in the best way possible. these songs are cheesy to the point where they sound like muzak and thats not a good thing at all. you would never listen to touch or fragments of time if they didnt have the daft punk tag on them. and if u want to prove me wrong i expect u to be a huge michael mcdonald and the alan parsons project fan now.

    • Justice is different, and so is Daft Punk, if all artists wrote the same kind of music, it’d be like a world with no color, only black and white. Sound would be stale and textures would be mono-toned. You’d imagine what kind of world we’d live in, boring, dumb and no innovation. The thing with innovation is, sometimes, it doesn’t always agree with you. =)

  49. Februrary 2011

    Radiohead Fan 1: I can’t stop listening to The King of Limbs. Radiohead has done it again!

    Radiohead Fan 2: Really? I didn’t like it that much.

    Radiohead Fan 1: You probably just don’t get it yet…remember Kid A? Remember how many people dismissed it because it wasn’t OK Computer Vol. 2, only to pull a total 180 and say that it’s not only Radiohead’s best album but one of the greatest albums of all time?!

    Radiohead Fan 2: Right, and I agree that it was unfairly evaluated at the time of its release for being too different…but I don’t dislike The King of Limbs because it’s too different from Radiohead’s other albums. I just didn’t enjoy it and don’t feel like it’s their best work.

    Radiohead Fan 1: You need to stop evaluating it as a Radiohead album and just think of it as an album. Appreciate it for what it is!

    Radiohead Fan 2: If you’re suggesting I would have enjoyed this album more if it were a debut album by an unknown band, I would probably say that it’s not very good and reminds me of Radiohead a little bit, because it would…but it’s not. It’s a Radiohead album, and I think it’s a not very good Radiohead album. Either way, I wouldn’t like the album.

    Radiohead Fan 1: You’re just letting all the hype color your perception of the album. Just focus on the music!

    Radiohead Fan 2: I did, and I don’t like it. I will admit that listening to the album and not liking it made all the pre release hype feel unwarranted…but even if there hadn’t been so much hype, I still wouldn’t like the album. Am I allowed to not like the album?

    Sound familiar?

  50. I really, really like this album; yes, it has it’s WTF moments (“Touch,” I’m looking at you) but the stellar moments more than outweigh the one or two missteps. My only criticism is that, for a record that took so long to produce, the songs don’t gel terribly well. Like, I really love the outro to the “Giorgio” song, where the click-track from earlier in the song sort of devolves into a bass drum. The first time I heard that I thought, “Oh, cool, that’s going to be the beat for the next song!” But then it just sort of ended and the next song was piano based. Anyway, other than a few issues of flow, it’s a gargantuan record and I love it. In terms of the Gabbo level of hype that was built up, I don’t think anything could have felt satisfying after all of that; suffice it to say I love it and it’s certainly worth the $10 you’ll pay for it.

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