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Chart Chat Album Review : ‘Random Access Memories’ – Daft Punk (20.05.13)

Chart Chat Album Review : ‘Random Access Memories’ – Daft Punk (20.05.13)

With an three year absence since they recorded the Tron Legacy soundtrack and now with a no.1 hit single in the shape of ‘Get Lucky’ under their belt, the anticipation for this new album has been intense.  Weighing in at 74 minutes long they are looking to give fans quantity, but does it also provide quality?

‘Give Music Back To Life’ opens proceedings, and it has a classic 70’s feel to it, not dissimilar to the single ‘Get Lucky’. There is no Pharrell Williams on vocal duties though so it’s down to the vocoder vocals to be layered over the top.  The vocoder vocals continue onto the second track ‘The Game Of Love’ which is very plain and ordinary.  The spark and inventiveness is missing here, and at 5 minutes 22 seconds long they could have at least edited it down below the 4 minute mark!

In actual fact only one of the tracks on the album is under four minutes long but ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ is the longest opus on here, at just over nine minutes long. The track features a spoken track from Giorgio himself as he talks through how he started out in music.  This makes a great first listen, as the words themselves are very interesting.  However is it the kind of song I could imagine playing over and over again? Well once the instrumental section kicks in things pick up considerably although equally there are some sections which are perhaps overindulgent.  However if you stick with it, it does build well into an epic of sorts with everything from keyboards to guitars in the mix by the time that the song eventually reaches its conclusion.

Next up is ‘Within’ which is the only track here under four minutes, and it features Chilly Gonzales on what is another ballad.  The vocoder vocals work less well on such a sparse track and for me is perhaps best forgotten about. No such problems on ‘Instant Crush’ which features The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas on vocals, even if he has been vocoded to a higher pitch than normal. The chugging new wave guitars give the track an 80’s feel and this could yet become a future single from the album. 

‘Lose Yourself To Dance’ is rumoured to be the second single and once more it features Pharrell Williams alongside the legendary producer Nile Rodgers.  It’s not quite as immediate as ‘Get Lucky’ but the funky guitars and high pitched vocals take the listener back to the 1970’s when bands such as Earth, Wind & Fire were dominating dancefloors.  

The next guest is Paul Williams, the guy behind the soundtrack to 1970’s kids film Bugsy Malone.  He features on the seventh track ‘Touch’, a song which easily passes the eight minute mark.  This could have failed miserably but it is absolutely brilliant.  There is every instrument you can imagine on here, including a piano which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Bugsy Malone soundtrack.  There’s not a complete escape from the vocoded vocals but that doesn’t really impact what is one of the real stand out tracks on the album.

‘Get Lucky’ needs no introduction having dominated the top spot for the past three weeks.  Pharrell Williams vocals suit the track perfectly, and the production is spot on.  It could be the years biggest seller, and some have been quick to label the track the song of the Summer, though its quite early on to be claiming that accolade! At six minutes long it is slightly extended compared to the radio edit but it doesn’t seem to drag on at all. 

After those two fantastic tracks ‘Beyond’ seems to be very ordinary.  No guest vocalists here, and the midtempo track barely gets out of second gear. ‘Motherboard’ is in a similar vein, and I am starting to wonder whether losing a couple of tracks and dropping the running time to 60 minutes might have helped turn a great album into a truly classic album. 

‘Fragments Of Time’ features the vocal talents of American house and garage producer Todd Edwards.  The tempo has picked up a bit, and the overall feel is more 80’s than 70’s. It’s the sort of track which could have easily topped the US charts in the early to mid 1980’s. But it still sounds fresh on this record.

‘Doin’ It Right’ is the final collaboration on the album with Panda Bear being the partners on this occasion. “Everybody will be doin’ it right” is the repeated refrain delivered by vocoded vocals with Panda Bear providing their normal vocals over the top. It works well but it’s not my favourite track on here. 

And so ‘Contact’ brings the album to its ultimate conclusion.  This has a real epic feel to it, with rapid drum beats over a huge church organ and sci-fi synths.  In some ways this is perhaps closer to some of their earlier work than many of the other songs on the album.  It certainly serves to end the album on a high, building to a real crescendo over six minutes.

On balance this is a frustrating album.  At its peak (‘Giorgio On Moroder’, ‘Instant Crush’, ‘Touch’, ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Contact’) the album is inventive, dramatic and in a real league of its own.  However these are offset by what, in my opinion, are some fairly mundane tracks which only really serve as fillers. 

Total marks awarded : 7 out of 10

14 May, 2013 - Posted by | ChartChat

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