ROLAND REVIEWS: Daft Punk Random Access Memories (COLUMBIA)
I don’t dislike the album (and have tried very hard to maintain an open mind and look for the good bits) but ultimately, whenever I listen to it, what jumps out at me is what I wish was different, better or there instead (“more of the Rhodes”, “some synth strings”, “straight 4/4 please”, etc). My key issues are that the focus on making music with “real” instruments/musicians significantly overshadows the usual aim of making “good” music and also that the number of guests/collaborators dilutes what was probably pretty focused and direct at one stage.
Nile Rodgers just phoning it in is a bit of a bummer.
Pharrell is more watery than fame allows in his appearances and I can’t help but wonder if he just paid to be on the album.
Gonzales definitely delivers and I’m glad that he put one on the board for the guests. “Within” is my favourite track on the album, just ahead of “The Game of Love”.
Giorgio’s vocautobiography is charming but not thrilling and there’s no way of really knowing how much he injected into the track itself (which I suppose is irrelevant anyway in terms of assessing the final product for what it is).
Julian Casablancas has oddly been autotuned into an approximate synthesis of Bryan Adams.
Todd Edwards’ chorus sounds really incongruous, lacking the flow (/common sense) of the snippet he sang in his slice of the YouTube promo. If “Fragments of Time” had instead been an instrumental and then the talkbox vocal kicked in at 3:10 that would have been a cool moment.
As much as I like Panda Bear I feel like he’s too present on “Doin’ It Right” and makes it sound more like Panda Bear ft. Daft Punk (whereas the track beneath has the potential to be a real burner in Daft Punk-only -mode).
Every time I hear “Touch” and the vocal comes in I wish it was instead Edwyn Collins or maybe Bowie if Edwin, less than ideally, were to have scheduling issues.
I’m not sure how much of himself DJ Falcon got to pour into “Contact” but good on him regardless as it’s a pretty great track except for the drums (which I’m sure Thomas/Guy-Man wouldn’t have let him near anyway). Cool move that the only people to get sampled on to the album are Sherbert.
I’ve observed several instances of people referring to “Fragments of Time” and “Instant Crush” as AM gold. As someone who listens to a fair bit of AM I can confidently say they are not up there with AM gold, I really truly wish they were though.
The “psych freakout” drums that pop up here and there to add to the “real” music angle of the album sound more like Fatboy Slim got a run. The Danny Elfman-y parts are bit of a downer also, which is a shame because the “Hold on, hold on, love is the answer, hold on” vocal on “Touch” is beautiful and could have made a good song great or a great song timeless in a different setting.
Guests aside: “Motherboard” sounds like an Air B-side and “Beyond” would be really cool if the “real” music wasn’t so serious.
If I was in charge these would have been my tips to pick the album up a bit:
-SWAP ALL THE FUNK GUITAR PARTS FOR YAMAHA CS-80 LINES (50% NORMAL, 25% ARPEGGIATED, 25% PADS);
-USE AN OBERHEIM DX FOR THE DRUMS;
-KICK EVERYONE OUT EXCEPT DJ FALCON AND MAYBE GONZALES.
In summary I think this album could have been fabulous if it was Daft Punk pushing themselves further in what they do so well together rather than making some kind of statement for the sake of it and clouding things further by introducing a disparate selection of guests.