Few albums in recent memory have been more appropriately marketed than Daft Punk's fourth album Random Access Memories. Teaser trailers and documentary videos have left fans almost rabid with anticipation; so much so that it seems most of us have forgotten that the Parisian duos last album, 2005's Human After All, was more than a little underwhelming.
Daft Punk have hung their hat on the success of the album's lead single, the Pharrell Williams fronted 'Get Lucky', a song well on its way to becoming 2013's most defining tune but will the rest of the album live up to that?
Entertainment.ie music editor John Balfe was tasked with listening to the album and finding out more.
1. 'Give Life Back To Music' (feat. Nile Rodgers and Paul Jackson Jr.) - 4.34
This song title makes perfect sense once you let the song swim through your head for a few moments. Having conquered the world of club beats and synthy grooves, Daft Punk dial their time machine back to the funk-laden world of the 1970s disco. A robotic narration imploring the listener to "give life back to music"Insta anchors the song in Daft Punk, while Nile Rodgers and Paul Jackson Jr's duelling guitars transplant the sounds of another era to the present.
2. 'The Game of Love' - 5.21
After raising pulses with the opener, Daft Punk take it down a notch with the languid 'The Game of Love' introducing a more melancholic tone which permeates several tracks of the album. This is the first signal that the album isn't all funky guitar licks and shiny, glistening guest vocals but a more considered and prog-like affair.
3. Giorgio By Moroder - 9.04
Now we're talking! After catching our breath on the previous track, shit's about to get real once again. This 9+ minute epic begins with Italo disco legend Giorgio Moroder providing Werner Herzog-like narration on his take of the evolution of electronic music with a soundtrack provided by Daft Punk. Moroder, describing his musical ethos, says: "I wanted to do an album with the sounds of the 70's, mixed with the sounds of the future" and in Daft Punk he's found his perfect creative foil. Of all the songs on Random Access Memories, this is one that could be most associated with the Daft Punk music of yesteryear - there's even room for a drum solo. One of the best songs on the record.
4. Within (feat. Chilly Gonzales) - 3.48
Much like how 'The Game of Love' brought the album crashing back to earth after the whirlwind opening track, 'Within' very much takes the wind out of the album's sails after the bombastic 'Giorgio By Moroder' and re-establishes the album's melancholic feel. The Daft Punk robots sound depressed, moaning that "there are so many things that I don't understand" and "I am lost, I can't even remember my name". Meh.
5. Instant Crush (feat. Julian Casablancas) - 5.37
Julian Casablancas' contribution to Random Access Memories is appropriately Strokes-ish, even if his trademark drawl is fed quite substantially through a vocoder. The verses meander along at a decent pace but it's the incredibly satisfying chorus where this song really finds itself. Of all the contributions from all manner of special vocal guests on Random Access Memories, this is one that most retains the creative spirit of its collaborator.
6. Lose Yourself To Dance (feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers) - 5.53
Those of you whose interest for Random Access Memories was piqued by hearing the 'Get Lucky' will be delighted to hear this. Quite clearly a companion piece to the album's lead single, 'Lose Yourself To Dance' is another throwback to the disco era which proved so fruitful for Nile Rodgers. Much like 'Get Lucky', Rodgers' funky guitar licks provides the skeleton from which the rest of the song hangs, while falsetto Pharell implores us to lose ourselves to dance. Don't mind if we do, Mr Williams.
7. Touch (feat. Paul Williams) - 8.18
Here we go again. Just when the album had re-established its rhythm and pacing, another overlong opus comes along and pushes the train off its rails. This is Daft Punk at their most prog and self-indulgent, with over 250 separate tracks in the mix all fighting for your attention. This is almost like a showtune and does burst into life in its last third but still somewhat expendable.
8. Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers) - 6.07
Without doubt the best song on the album, 'Get Lucky' will likely be played nightly in every club on the planet for the next couple of years such is the 'Crazy In Love' like reaction that the song has been receiving since it was initially teased online last month. You've only heard the radio edit and while the album version isn't hugely different, it keeps the good times rolling for a couple of more minutes. This will be a strong contender for best song of 2013 when all those lists start rolling out in December.
9. Beyond (lyrics by Paul Williams) - 4.50
Daft Punk doesn't get much more grandiose than this. Opening almost like a John Williams track, the French duo turn their attentions from 1970's disco to 1970's film scores, opening with a surging stringed intro before the familiar Daft Punk robots chime in towards the end with their familiar clicks and bleeps. Contemplative Daft Punk? Who would've thunk...
10. Motherboard - 5.40
An instrumental continuation of 'Beyond', this is when Random Access Memories begins to flirt a little too dangerously some of the excess that defined their clumsy 2005 release Human After All. We're in definite trim-the-fat territory here, blurring the line between experimental and self-indulgent, as the robots play around with flutes and jazz drums to their heart's content.
11. Fragments of Time (feat. Todd Edwards) - 4.39
Frequent Daft Punk collaborator Todd Edwards gets in on the act here, adding some of his sampling knowhow to the mix. While a lot easier to consume than the previous two tracks, the overwhelming feeling that this album is in dire need of a bit of grounding lest it be lost in the clouds.
12. Doin' It Right (feat. Panda Bear) - 4.11
We asked for it and we got it. After an arduous few songs in a row, we're back on form with the Panda Bear starrer 'Doin' It Right' which, much like the Casablancas track earlier, retains the spirit of Panda Bear's Animal Collective but adds a few sprinkles of Daft Punk's magic robot dust for good measure. The song's mantra "if you're doin' it right, everybody will be dancing" could well be advice that the Parisians could have heeded more often throughout Random Access Memories though.
13. Contact (feat DJ Falcon) - 6.21
This album should probably have ended already but that's not to say that this isn't a good resolution point either. French compatriot DJ Falcon joins in on the fun here as the track begins with an exchange between Mission Control and Apollo 17 detailing a UFO sighting making sure that Random Access Memories ends in a suitably other-worldly environment.
Random Access Memories is an incredibly ambitious album. While significant thought has clearly gone into every aspect of it, you get the sense that more care could have been taken to anchor the record in a time and space which is relatable to the listener and not solely a passion project for the indulgence of the creators. There are a handful of excellent tracks contained within its overlong running time but because the album pushes itself in so many different directions, you find yourself harking back to the good tracks rather than looking forward to the next ones.
Credit must be given to Daft Punk for Random Access Memories because the sort of creativity they put into this record should be recognised and fostered but ultimately it's an album defined as much by where they missed as by where they scored.
Daft Punk's Random Access Memories will be released on 17th May.