Prism’s Ode to Daft Punk
November 6, 2017
Let’s call them by their names: Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. Daft–Jamming a Little Too Hard and Now Ny Neck Hurts. This Song Will Stay in Your Head For All Eternity–Punk. It’s cheeky, it’s progressive. It can’t possibly be what you’re listening to but somehow you’re still fully invested in whatever movement they’re trying to propel. It really can’t be anything other than Daft Punk.
An ode to Daft Punk would really be a hats-off, bowing down celebration of many genres of music and all of the funkiest ones at that. Disco, soul, funk, French House, and anything that carries a sexy progression and a hint of the glossy sparkle that was lost to the late 70s and which resurfaced in the mid 90s. A tribute to the duo would include the swanky guitar riffs perpetuated by Nile Rogers, the repetitive yet profound bass chords only analogue can capture right, drum machines, and the hazily robotic vocals of the pre-Daft Punk era found in tracks like “Music Sounds Better With You” (one of Bangalter’s earliest hits) and carried into “One More Time”.
Really, a definitive ode to Daft Punk would be an ultimate breakdown of the musical pioneer–the person whose vision cross-stitched genres together while simultaneously separating what makes them unique. In this case, and in anticipation of Nu Deco Ensemble‘s second Daft Punk Suite premiering on December 14th, we’re shouting out our favorite tracks by the french pair and how they encapsulate Daft Punk’s footprint on modern music with a heavy 20/20 hindsight to the sounds of the past. So hold on tight, it’s about to be a funky ride.
Although “Alive” was featured on one of their very first mixes ever, it’s “Da Funk” on their debut album, Homework, and that recognizable tritonal intro that really makes a Daft Punk fan smile. Just when you think the song has progressed to its darkest mood, a light rhythm guitar comes in to lift you back. Can’t get more classic than this one.
“Around the World”
Easily one of the most beloved (or interchange that with well-known) Daft Punk tracks, you really can’t fake that distant and climbing bass thump that starts the song–as if you’re waiting in line to get into a club you know is currently popping off. This is the epitome of catchy, a perfect blend of what makes these two guys so absolutely delicious. Also, did we mention drum machines already?
Mostly because I can’t pick a standout track from Daft Punk’s second album and mostly because I’m afraid to insult anyone, we’re going to take a moment to appreciate the shear perfect that is this record. For every “One More Time” there’s a “Harder Better Faster Stronger” to hit you hard. For every “Aerodynamic” there’s a “Digital Love” to remind you that music, regardless of whether it’s electronic or not, can be remarkably beautiful. There’s “Voyager” to take you on a, well, journey. And there will always be a “Too Long” to remind you that these guys truly are on a level all their own. Or a space ship. Whatever.
“Something About Us”
Okay, I know the floor is covered with adjectives and adverbs describing the musical awesomeness that is Discovery, but the combination of melancholic lyrics and bass-ridden groove is exactly what you would expect from one of Daft Punk’s least electronic tracks and also one of my overall favorites. Synths, keys, reverb, crescendo, the twang of a French accent and repeat.
Daft Punk’s third album, Human After All brought back some the early, darker weirdness that Discovery smoothed out especially in tracks like “Emotion” and “Robot Rock” but “Technologic” is the true standout. The drum cascade, the infectious chorus, the robotic womps–it sounds like the perfect recipe for a heavy jam.
Although many purists don’t include their soundtrack for the movie Tron: Legacy in anthologies, it’s important to note just how talented these dudes really can be. Their cross-pollination of different mediums and their deep dives into other areas of pop culture are formidable at the very least. This is the lead track on the score and a paradoxical balance of organized cacophony.
“Lose Yourself to Dance”
Oh…you thought I would spotlight “Get Lucky”, didn’t you? Although Random Access Memories is a treasure trove of analogue and funk delicacies featuring some of music’s greatest talents from Nile Rogers to Giorgio Moroder, “Lose Yourself to Dance” is their freest track on the album. It’s light and happy and features a joyful Pharrell at its core championing freedom and dance music.
You know an artist is exceptional when writing about their anthology reawakens a passionate love in need of some heavy dusting. I’m so thankful that artists like Nu Deco Ensemble are constantly paying hommage to the innovators that came before them, both to preserve their sonic legacies and to remind us how they rose to the level of legends in the first place. Make sure you buy your tickets to their second concert of the season on December 14th – 16th and see which tracks they reimagine.