This is an absurd journey in which two men posing as robots go analog and defy expectations. Some casual Daft Punk fans are expressing disappointment. The word “boring” has been tossed out by those who want it harder, better, faster, stronger, one more time. Letting people down is the pitfall of mystery and hype, but Daft Punk have never shied away from risk.
Random Access Memories opens with some rock opera bombast and the song title “Give Life Back To Music.” That was certainly the goal when Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo got back into the studio and mostly abandoned the samples and loops for live instrumentation. Whether or not they succeeded depends on how you want to talk about life in the music.
Large parts of the album might be lacking life if we're talking about energy and vitality. “The Game of Love” doesn't manage to convey any love at all, and the sad robot song “Within” is a bit of a snoozer. There's hardly anything like the kind of life that pulsed out of Discovery, and much of the first half of the record feels dead.
But if you want to think of music as a living organism, Daft Punk has definitely succeeded at creating life on RAM. The attention to detail in every disco groove, click track, vocal alteration and carefully deployed collaboration is fairly astounding. Almost every part feels like it has a purpose -- like the album needs it to function. According to Pitchfork, 250 separate tracks were used to make "Touch,” for which they brought in the prolific, Academy Award-winning composer Paul Williams (the result is pure cinema).
Speaking of collaborations, they resulted in some of the most unexpected and delightfully insane moments on RAM. Daft Punk decided to shirk expectations on this album, and part of that meant altering Julian Casablancas' trademark vocals beyond easy recognition. It also meant just letting legendary producer Giorgio Moroder talk. Even so, “Giorgio By Moroder” is still an impressive work of production art, as is the final stretch of the album, which organically builds in the epic finale, “Contact.” The last song sounds most like old Daft Punk, but more over the top, as if they're yelling. “Is this what you want?”
But that's silly. Daft Punk doesn't care what we want.