Review Summary: One of the best electronic albums I've ever heard, and Daft Punk's magnum opus.
"We've come too far, to give up who we are. So let's raise the bar, and our cups to the stars." The opening line to the quintessentially catchy hook of "Get Lucky" sung by Pharrell, the infamous falsetto singer half of the infamous producer duo, the Neptunes, answers the numerous questions and concerns of die-hard Daft Punk fans. How does an iconic electronic production duo handle their legacy? How do they remain what they've essentially become, develop who they want to be, while still remaining commercially viable? By creating music so intricately wonderful, so incredibly catchy, and so indomitably spiritual. Bleeding through the synthesizers and vocoders is the meticulously structured live instrumentation, which recalls in the mind the warm soul of an earlier generation, while still maintaining the appeal of electronic music: simple, yet expertly crafted. Instead of using computerized noises to create an original future, Daft Punk has selected for a more nostalgic vibe, and have succeeded. There's a bit of soulful crooning, funky guitars, Micheal Jackson-esque dance-pop masterpieces, retro synths, which all blend and mix without a single element seeming out of place. With this album, a new image for Daft Punk has been created, one that seems like a natural progression, yet defies everything they've previously been about. Homework recalls a few kids with some tech equipment working hard to produce quality tunes in their spare time. Discovery is as if they were two aliens who came down to grant us the gift of music from their home planet. Human After All is just that; coming off the legendary legacy from Discovery and Homework, it reveals DP are simply two humans underneath their robot suits. They aren't perfect. Even their brief roles as the DJ crew in Tron Legacy and their work on the soundtrack conveys an image. A superpower in the world of electronic music. But Random Access Memories gives us perhaps the most admirable view of all; a successful attempt to revive the sound of an earlier generation. Nostalgia represented by two robots.
"Give Life Back to Music" starts the album with a bang. It's a series of epic and hauntingly intimidating clashing instruments quickly evolving into a simplistic funk tune with a catchy repeating vocoder hook. And once you've invested yourself in the music, you're rewarded with the clashes once again, which are the best part of the track. "The Game of Love" recalls the days of relaxing love songs built with jazzy pianos and light drums. "Giorgio by Moroder" is very similar to "Last Call" by Kanye West. Both tracks are highly interesting monologues about earlier experiences in the music industry accompanied by a series of instrumentals which compliment the story. Giorgio is a very interesting storyteller, and the way his tale represents the impact of the synthesizer, the struggle to become a successful musician, and the pure dedication of Daft Punk is a highly intelligent metaphor. The tune accompanying the story is also classic Daft Punk, but is accompanied by a two jazz breakdowns, one relaxing, one intimidating, which create a perfect intro and outro to the next part of Giorgio's vocal tapestry. "Within" is a peaceful, yet depressing look into the soul. It's music anyone can relate to, with a protagonist who feels he doesn't belong, has trouble feeling lost in the world, and has issues with connecting with others. But most importantly, he is depressed about his identity, as he doesn't even know who he is. "Instant Crush" is absolutely perfect summer drive music, evoking an image of a bright day, cruising along the highway in a silver convertible, while talking about yet another issue listeners who feel lonely can relate to; anyone who shows us the slightest bit of affection we can't help but feel obsessed about.
The album takes itself into a different direction with the start of "Lose Yourself to Dance." It segues from a jazzy, introspective glance into ourselves, and enters into another realm. We are exiting the jazzy electronica, and entering Daft Punk's take on the classic pop music of Micheal Jackson. It's not necessarily an ode specifically to that artist, but we can feel his influence. "Touch" blends electronic sounds with gospel music, with a heartwarming anthem of beauty. "Get Lucky" is a different creature from the four minute radio edit. While the radio edit feels like an entertaining and fun dance track, the six minute version is an ode to the fans. It's a slightly complex ode to the fans hidden underneath funky pop. What a coincidence it ended up in the middle of the album, it almost feels like this is the bridge between the earlier tracks, which are mostly in territory Daft Punk hasn't treaded in earlier releases. "Beyond" is when you realize Daft Punk has created their best release ever. I will repeat, their best release ever. Beyond takes you to a place that you've likely never been, or have wanted to go in terms of music. And it perfectly represents what I have to say about every track on this album: every single sound you hear has been in a song from the past, yet it combines to create a track that you've heard nothing like. "Motherboard" while a standard electronic music track, only serves as a bridge to "Fragments of Time" which surpasses even "Get Lucky" in being able to blend Daft Punk's music with entirely human vocals. "Doing It Right" is classic, retro eighties electronic pop music, and benefits by not being another glance into the soul of a person, but simply being a fun dance track to give us a bit of breathing room for "Contact."
"Contact" is the perfect closer to Random Access Memories, and represents how the entire album has touched the inner human soul and the outer lengths of the universe at the same time. It's a purely bombastic and epic finisher, and Daft Punk exits how it came in. It's going to be hard to believe that Daft Punk are the ones to create a classic, perfect release. It's going to be hard to believe this is a classic worthy of being compared to the best of the electronic genre, as well as being able to hold its own against any purely instrumental funk/dance/pop release of the seventies or eighties. But I speak to you from my absolutely ecstatic soul: few albums aren't incredibly well-crafted songs placed on a record. Few albums attain the title of experiences. RAM is a nostalgic, entertaining, loveable, catchy, detailed look into the inner and outer world. And it's worthy of being called a classic.