The mark of a truly great rock song is one musically intriguing and lyrically compelling. So fascinating that you are driven to research the subject matter to find out more about the artist’s muse. A good example of this is Peter Gabriel’s “Biko.” This stunningly, transcendent tune made more than a few folks investigate what exactly happened on that September afternoon in 1977 in Port Elizabeth. As the world chanted the memorable chorus, they hopefully remembered the song’s hero Stephen Biko as well.
I bring this up because on a lighter subject matter, the new album from Daft Punk called “Random Access Memory,” cajoles the listener to do the same. The third song on the much-anticipated release from the deft Frenchmen is called “Giorgio By Moroder” and is part collaboration, part tribute to the Italian producer who taught the world to dance. Songs like Donna Summer’s “Love to Love Ya Baby, Irene Cara’s “Flashdance…What a Feeling“ and Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away“ are all the handy work of Giorgio Moroder. Moroder has been called the “Meryl Streep of music” and his trophy case bears that out as he has taken home three Oscars and just as many Grammys. But who the heck has ever heard of him?
I hadn’t, that is until I heard Daft Punk’s ode. While listening to his spoken word collaboration layered over fresh dance beats, I was moved to find out more of this trend making legend. It’s a moment of recorded music that you will rarely hear on the radio and even ardent fans of the band will be reluctant to blast this track at their next rager, however, it speaks to the sense of time and space of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo’s music. It faithfully expresses, for the two men behind the robot masks of Daft Punk, the intelligent skill they bring to their craft.
It’s this sensibility that is heard throughout this lengthy release. It is in essence their most realize piece of music and one that might just as well have been called State of the Art of Music. The duo has never shied away from notating their influencers with a heavy reliance on 1960s pop like the Beach Boys. However, on this release they disguise their stimuli as well as the storm trooper helmets conceal their identities. As incognito as their faces, they blend the beats from the last four decades into the future with 70 plus minutes of new grooves.
To complete their first complete studio album in 8 years, the twosome went out of their comfort zone and engaged various artist to contribute hundreds of tracks that took the band over four years to assemble in a album that speaks to the future of dance the way U2 altered alternative rock with “The Joshua Tree.”
The Frenchmen shy away from the heavy syncopated beats of the EDM movement and rely mostly on live instrumentation- a welcome sound for an old rock fan like myself. They go so far as to stress the point in the instructional “Bring Life Back To Music.” A call to all who seem to have fallen under the belief that Apple Computer is a musical instrument manufacturer. It’s a bold step forward for one of the world’s most influential combinations and an attempt to bring real presence to the robotic world that has become all too present in modern music. “Random Access Memories” will be hard to forget when we make our list of year’s best.