It was never ever going to live up to its own inflated hype – after all, it’s impossible to be groundbreaking when you’re trying to be sympathetic to a 30-year-old genre – but Random Access Memories is an intriguing beauty and a must for dance music fans with any concern for the history of the genre.
Random Access Memories is Daft Punk’s mega-expensive recompense for their regrettable role in shaping the landscape of today’s predictable, formulaic EDM. They’ve tried to make amends by revisiting the sounds of their original influences and in this respect it’s a faithful and, for the most part, outstanding success.
As genial and wide-eyed guides, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo take us on a wondrous tour through disco. With its vocoder harmonies, opener ‘Give Life Back To Music’ is the hit Dayton wish they had scored in the early ‘80s; the inimitable guitar style of Nile Rodgers is the foundation for the perfectly crafted pop-funk of ‘Get Lucky’; and on ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ the famed producer behind Donna Summer’s proto-house hit ‘I Feel Love’ explains how he constructed his “sound of the future” over an immersive metronomic Moog backing track.
The lynchpin of the album is the track most likely to divide opinion. ‘Touch’ is an audacious three-act epic of high-camp featuring an ode to pioneering drummer Earl Young’s signature hi-hat work, a children’s choir, Salsoul vibes and sophisticated strings and brass. It’s both ridiculous and incredible. But in true disco fashion, the very thing that makes the album so refreshing is also the root of its flaws. There are a couple of occasions when the process has apparently become more important than the outcome and the laid-back groove crosses the line into muzak.
**** out of five stars
BY DAVID WILD
Random Access Memory is out now on Columbia.