Hype and expectation are two of the greatest foes any established artist has to face. The buzz surrounding Random Access Memories has been massive and so the pressure has been piled on Daft Punk to deliver a worthy successor to 2005’s Human After All, especially after recently striking a chord with their soundtrack to movie Tron: Legacy. Unfortunately this album is a faint reflection of a once great band and leaves me greatly disappointed.
There’s not a lot of variety across the album and continual reuse of very similar short funk riffs just make it all very samey throughout even with the electronic twists and guest vocal appearances on 7 of the 13 tracks. There’s nowhere near the imagination of anything that’s come before; none of the big beats of Homework and Human After All, the creativity of Discovery, or the drama of Tron: Legacy.
The album is a homage to 70’s synths and 80’s electronica, but what it has in nostalgia value it lacks in basic enjoyment. There are a number of tracks that start on a promising note but fail to deliver such as the lovely piano intro to “Within” and the orchestration on “Beyond” which both give way to sepia boredom for the rest of the song. Throughout the album there’s largely the same wakka-wakka guitar riff over a simplistic drumbeat occasionally bolstered by synths. The ones that don’t follow this formula are confused. Take “Touch” for example, at over 8 minutes long has a bewildering intro, then a short vocal by Paul Williams and a great funky rhythm before the entire song changes and slows down, before suddenly stopping dead and finally finishing with a further short unaccompanied vocal. It’s jarring and messy and a waste of a great vocal, like they had lots of bits of songs left over and weren’t sure how to stitch them together into a good one.
To me it’s a little like all of the less appealing relaxed bits in between the best songs on the previous albums have been expanded into a full album. “Get Lucky” is easily the best tune on the album and sort of serves as a template for the rest of it. Imagine the bits with no vocals being repeated at varying degrees of slower speeds and you’ve got the crux of Random Access Memories. If that sounds good to you, you’ll probably love this. If it doesn’t, you might want to be looking elsewhere for your audio thrills. I played the album to my other half and she summed it with the simple, “This album’s shite”. A bit harsh perhaps, but I’m not a million miles away from agreeing. There are a couple of moments I do always enjoy on each play such as album closer “Contact” and the latter half of “Giorgio by Moroder”, though that’s 9 minutes long and it’s only the last 3 or 4 I really liked.
Lyrically there are themes about dancing and getting lost in the enjoyment of the music, yet ironically there’s very little here that you could dance to. Stupidly “Lose Yourself To Dance”, the one song you’d expect to be inherently boogieable, is far too slow a song to dance to lest you do a Goth-like shoe gazing shuffle. Apart from “Get Funky”, I’m not sure there’s anything on here with enough of an incentive to get you on the dance floor.
I’ve listened to the album a number of times now hoping that it gets better and though songs do begin to differentiate themselves the more I hear them, it still doesn’t make me want to listen any more. In fact, I keep finding myself thinking that I will be skipping tracks the next time they come on. It’s always like I’m on the cusp of enjoying a song then something comes along and spoils it.
It was pointed out to me that maybe it’s designed to be a chilled out album. Perhaps I’m simply getting too wrapped up in the expectations of an exciting instant classic? I’m not so sure. There are two moments on the album that I think maybe sum it all up. “Doin’ It Right” sings “Doing it right, everybody will be dancing”. Well on that track they certainly haven’t done it right at all. But the final words of the aforementioned “Touch” perhaps say it more than all the words in this review ever could.
“I need something more”.