The year 2013 may very well be remembered as the year of the victory lap. From “Arrested Development” to the Postal Service and Neutral Milk Hotel, entertainment that was underappreciated during its time is returning to bask in the love it should have initially received.
In some instances, the adulation is surprising. In other cases it’s inevitable. For Daft Punk it’s a little bit of both. The hype surrounding the dance and house duo from Paris and their new album, “Random Access Memories,” is a surprise because their last official album, 2005’s “Human After All,” was met with a resounding meh. But it’s inevitable, because since then, the music that they had been pioneering since the late ’90s has become wildly popular.
Did you see how we called Daft Punk a “dance and house” act in the above paragraph? That’s because when we popped “RAM” into our computers, that’s how Daft Punk registered the genre with iTunes. While they arguably play what is now called electronic dance music, or EDM, that genre name seemed to surface during their absence. In fact, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, one half of the helmeted duo, recently admitted to the British publication New Music Express that he had no idea what people were talking about when they mentioned EDM.
"I don't know EDM artists or the albums,” he said. “At first I thought it was all just one guy, some DJ called EDM."
But “Random Access Memories” will appeal to people who know all about EDM and to people who don’t know a thing about it. It’s a dance album with high profile guest stars — Pharrell Williams, Julian Casablancas and Nile Rogers, to name a few — who never steal the spotlight from their hosts. The interesting part about the album though, is that it flies in the face of what people might expect a Daft Punk album would sound like in 2013, because it almost sounds like what any album produced by Giorgio Moroder might sound like in 1979. In fact, the 73-year-old disco pioneer is also a guest star on the album, on a winking track titled, “Giorgio By Moroder.”
When the duo could so easily satisfy EDM-hungry fans, why would they play so far against form? Because playing against form is what made fans so excited for Daft Punk to return in the first place.
When Metro spoke with Thomas Mars of Phoenix earlier this month, we asked about the internet speculation that Daft Punk would join his band for a few songs at Coachella, as they had done a few years prior at Madison Square Garden. Phoenix tapped R. Kelly as their special guest instead.
Mars had a good reason for not calling his old friends to join them.
“You know what’s nice is that we decided to do Madison Square Garden,” he said, “because we thought, ‘How many chances were there that friends that grew up in the suburbs of Paris who were making music at the same time would be having success at the same time?’ and we had to do something together. But then once you do it, I think you have done it. What I love about their music is that they have such a strong concept. They always go in the direction, they always want to shape the future and we try to do the same thing, and try to go to places where we surprise ourselves, where you change the rules each time a bit. And so that would have been just some sort of disturbing victory lap, or an embarrassing victory lap.”
So while Daft Punk is doing a victory lap of sorts, they’re doing it on their own track.