I’ve always maintained that Radiohead’s Kid A is my favorite album ever. But the album behind it is Daft Punk’s 2001 opus Discovery. 12 years on from that album’s release, it seems fitting that Random Access Memories, the first album from the pair more officially known as Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (not counting live album Alive 2007 or the Tron Legacy soundtrack from 2010) since 2005’s Human After All, seems to have some of the hallmarks from when Discovery blew up.
For one, lead single Get Lucky’s success is eeringly similar to that of One More Time’s breakout in the UK. The difference being Get Lucky went one better and became a number one single compared to OMT’s placing at number two. However, the one other thing they both have is they give a taste to what the full album is in general. Which brings me to my second point.
Random Access Memories is Daft Punk’s Kid A. I’m actually serious. Daft Punk’s safe zone was proper house music with Discovery and bits of Human After All in comparison to the underground dance music of Homework. Everyone expected Kid A to maintain the same ethos that OK Computer had when Radiohead released it in 2000.
What a culture shock everyone had when it turned out it was a electronica album (mostly anyways). RAM maintains some of that electronica seen in the Tron Legacy soundtrack with its closer Contact (on this evidence and Legacy, Daft Punk are more than equipped to handle Tron 3’s soundtrack if asked back), but the album is otherwise very heavily influenced by 70s disco.
It won’t surprise you, then, that two of the album’s biggest collaborators made their bread and butter in the 70s. Giorgio Moroder plays a serious inspiration in what is otherwise a ballad in his name in Giorgio By Moroder, one of the best tracks from the album. Clear inspirations (for at least the first two-thirds of the song anyways) of Verdis Quo from Discovery are there for all to hear.
Of course, the most prominent collaborator in this album has to be Nile Rodgers. The Chic guitarist who’s skills touched songs like Le Freak, Diana Ross’s I’m Coming Out, the infamous rift in David Bowie’s Lets Dance and more, has had a hand in some of the guitar rifts in the album. As well as Get Lucky, you can tell his influence is felt in Lose Yourself to Dance and Give Life Back to Music, all of which are fantastic songs.
Of course, we knew Get Lucky was great, but I always felt the radio edit had limited how amazing the full version was. I was right: the album version, at 6:05 long, is miles and miles, night and day better than the radio edit.
And in fact, the two songs featuring Rodgers and The Neptunes/N.E.R.D’s Pharrell Williams – Get Lucky and Give Life Back to Music – play off each other. Give Life is, if anything, the b-side to Get Lucky. It’s a fantastic pairing on the album and one which surely Williams will consider a career highlight, going by his Collaborators video.
The last thing I think about in terms of the things Discovery and Random Access Memories have in common about one another is the ‘OMG gleeeeee’ some songs the latter has. With Human After All, there was none of that, not even in the slightest (it took Alive 2007 to salvage anything out of that). And while RAM doesn’t have the same pound-for-pound wow factor as Discovery in terms of song-after-song consistency (the first time I listened to Discovery in full, I couldn’t stop enjoying listening to the album in sheer glee right up until Short Circuit came on), there are songs on here which made me glee with delight: Get Lucky in full meeting my expectations and thensome, Giorgio By Moroder and the drop in the second third of the song (“My name is Giovani Giorgio, but everyone calls me Giorgio”), Lose Yourself to Dance (“comeoncomeoncomeoncomeon”) and Doin’ It Right featuring Animal Collective’s Panda Bear. That’s just naming a few.
Of course, there were songs that didn’t quite hit the bar for me. The Game of Love bored me and I really wasn’t a big fan of Touch.
But otherwise, Random Access Memories works. It doesn’t quite reach Discovery in terms of my reaction and undying love, but it’s a return to form for the robots following the disappointing Human After All. There won’t be a tour to promote RAM solely, instead opting to go for a general set, but you have to wonder how they’ll they implement songs like Get Lucky or what not into their tour. Either way, when they do go back on the road, you’ll see me with tickets bought the second they go on sale.
Sign me up.
Favorite tracks: Get Lucky, Giorgio By Morodor, Lose Yourself to Dance
PS: Verdis Quo > Disco > Discovery. Bum bum buuuuuuuum.