My excitement for the new Daft Punk album lasted precisely until I heard it. Because it SUCKS. It is TERRIBLE. This is why. Daft Punk have a sacred gift. They write disco-electro-funk-pop that makes the soul soar, the ass shake, and sadness run and hide. On this album, they decided to ignore that gift, and head down a road paved with shit called “Jazz-Fusion Bollocks.” Gone are the savage drum loops and taint-shaking bass. Say hello to self-indulgent piano noodling and soft cymbal fills! But don’t worry: they kept the totally incongruous robot voices. Sounds like a recipe for elevator music written by The Borg, right? It is! Congratulations. Your prize is listening to anything else.
The first track is “Give Life Back to the Music”, starting with a bullish eight-bar fanfare that makes you think, “OK, now we’re getting some.” But then it settles into some third-rate Chaka Khan knock-off boogie bullshit that even guitar great Nile Rodgers can’t save. It’s an emotional betrayal, like a lover starting to kiss your genitals, then abruptly leaving to heat up a can of soup.
The Robots start singing: “Let the music in tonight, / Just turn on the music, / Let the music of your life, / Give life back to music.” I’ll forgive most lyrical mistakes, but this is a verbal war crime. If pop music had an atrocities tribunal in The Hague, Daft Punk would be doing Life in a cage. This is how Daft Punk write lyrics: they keep a mentally handicapped boy chained in basement, teach him only a handful of words (“Music, Dance, Life, Touch, Lucky, Yeah, Love”), then savagely beat him and write down whatever comes out of his mouth. At least that’s what it sounds like.
The second track, “The Game of Love” is just excrescent. Remember that scene from every ‘80s cop movie, where the hero silently struggles with his feelings on a beach, admitting his hard cop heart is falling for the Captain’s daughter? Remember the appalling soundtrack to that? No need. Just listen to this enema of a song and shudder.
Daft Punk work with the legendary Giorgio Moroder on the imaginatively titled “Giorgio by Moroder”, as if collaborating with a legend will distract everyone from the fundamental awfulness of the record. No dice, man. You could get Shakespeare to punch-up a Jeff Dunham routine, but at the end of the day, it’s still a racist puppet show. In fact, this album is the racist puppet show of dance music.
The cringe-inducing summit of the record is “Within”. A friend of mine said it best: “I can't remember a song that gives me more secondhand embarrassment.” Words fail to express how poor it is. The tune is the kind of cheesy, plinky-plonky appeal to melancholy that will be familiar to anyone who has watched a badly-made public service film about AIDS. The lyrics are about a robot having an identity crisis, which sounds like Stephen Hawking if he was a 13-year-old girl upset that Megan has a boyfriend (what the fuck, Megan? Make time for “us”).
The rest of the album could have redeemed itself, but didn’t. There are a couple of bright-ish spots. “Get Lucky” is a B-minus Daft Punk song that the whole world convinced itself was an A. “Instant Crush” is worth a few repeat listens: who would of thought Julian Casablancas would be the only guy to escape this musical Hindenburg with any credit?
The scale of the critical con-job Daft Punk have managed to pull here is staggering. Reviews are almost all favorable, if not glowing. Popular culture was whipped into a fever pitch of excitement for this record, and critics played along, stoking the anticipation even further. It would take a set of solid brass coconuts to turn around and say :”yeah, you know that album we made you run out and buy? It’s a dud of a dildo of a record. Sorry about that.”
This record accomplishes one thing, and one thing only. If you’ve ever wondered yourself: “25 years from now, what kind of music will McDonald’s play to make customers leave?” WONDER. NO. MORE.