Daft Punk's much-hyped new release has been out more than a week now and most of the reviews are very positive. The Telegraph said, "[Daft Punk's] return should be heralded from on high, because it is the boldest, smartest, most colourful and purely pleasurable dance album of this decade." And Q Magazine said, "Daft Punk's best album in a career that's already redefined dance music at least twice. It is, in short, a mind-blower."
But how anyone can see this album as more than a crushing disappointment of the promise of "Get Lucky," its brilliant lead single, is beyond me. It's often boring and frustrating, and sometimes maddening.
Let's start with the positives: Daft Punk gets an A for effort. This album is gloriously ambitious. In their own words, they're trying to "Give Life Back to Music" and make music important again. Much like the new record by The Savages, this album feels like a manifesto and Daft Punk's argument is: music should be more human. It's a funny message coming from two guys who hide behind helmets and sing like robots. But that's the point. The electronic dance music superstars have now released an album of analogue recordings, packed with retro-sounding, live-musician-performed disco tunes. This album sounds so good that, like Pitchfork said, one could use it to test the quality of a sound system. It's that smooth and dynamic.
The album also touts one of the best pop songs of the last decade: "Get Lucky." With its funky groove, Pharrell Williams' nice falsetto and a couple of amazing hooks, it's the perfect song to make you want to roller disco all night long. When I first heard it - not really being a Daft Punk fan - I was in awe. I played it again and again. I hadn't heard anything crafted so effectively in a long time.
But, honestly, it's the only song that you need from this effort. None of the others have even one great hook or anything close to the urgency it conveys. Most of the songs are meandering, subpar compositions with laughable lyrics, cheesy aesthetics and nothing more.
Here's a sample lyric: "There are so many things that I don't understand/ There's a world within me that I cannot explain/ Many rooms to explore but the doors look the same/ I am lost I can't even remember my name." How sad. And that's said through the vocoder! But the lyrics don't seal the album's fate. I can handle and often encourage bad lyrics. My real problem here is that Daft Punk's compositions add up to nothing. They're happy to noodle with cheesy synth lines for eternity. They've wiped the slate clean, orchestrated one of the grandest, most effective marketing campaigns in pop music and all they have to offer are repetitive funk riffs and jazz, classical and Broadway flirtations that are dead-on-arrival.
Each time I listen to it, the phrase that keeps popping up in my head over and over is "easy listening."
With all that being said, ultimately, am I happy that this exists? Yes. I encourage more musicians to try to do what Daft Punk failed to do here: create albums that mean something, albums that are important. There's just a difference between creating music that sounds important and creating music that's important because of the way it sounds.
Daft Punk got it backwards here. Here's to hoping they try again.