Review Summary: Get Lucky: Themes and Variations
The other morning, my sister said something that struck me. Usually slumbering while I blast my iPod in the car during our daily voyage to school, she muttered this rare insight: “Getting in a car accident wouldn’t be so bad, at least I won’t have to hear this song”. I paused, and with a sigh turned off the stereo. The song was “Giorgio by Moroder”, the third track off the new Daft Punk album, and I couldn’t believe I agreed with her.
The disco ball fell shattered to the floor. On Monday, the robotic duo’s incredulously hyped comeback album streamed, and I couldn’t remember the last time something had gripped the Internet with anticipation like this. All eyes scanned PirateBay for Random Access Memories. The return was going to be sublime. However, it doesn’t matter how enigmatic your Saturday Night Live vignette is or how innovative the layout for your Pitchfork cover story; hype can only suggest quality. In this case, beauty is only metallic skin tissue deep. That awkward morning car ride put things into perspective. My less Internet savvy younger sister skipped the illusion and perceived the mediocrity purely.
RAM begins well enough; heavy guitars and indistinct white noise swell in the opening seconds of “Give Life Back To Music”, effectively prolonging the suspense of the audience actually wanting to HEAR the album. However, when the crescendo peaked and the groove kicked in, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. The pulsing rhythm and guitar riff are almost identical to previously released lead single “Get Lucky”, which for the record is a great and fun song in its own right, but not dense enough to provide the blueprint for an entire album. The obligatory robotic vocals glide in and the song carries virtually unchanging for the next 4 minutes. The groove wanes and fades out. Track 1 of the messianic album ends. Confusion. “Game of Love” follows, and while the texture of the robot voice hear is admittedly interesting, it emits cringe-worthy lyrics over an uninspired and sterile beat that is much too boring to listen to for its five and a half minute duration.
In a sense, these two songs accurately sum up the majority of RAM. Daft Punk was apparently too busy tracking down and hiring forgotten session musicians to write much else than “Get Lucky”. Percussive funk guitars trace the same dancy strum patterns over the same quarter note pulse in the drums, and the chords follow pretty much an identical harmonic rhythm throughout the album. While deviations from that antique dance floor formula are seldom, they do happen, resulting in the aforementioned “Game of Love” and “Within”, two songs whose faux emotion provide achingly cheezy lyrics and unimaginative composition.
The album is also a behemoth; it staggers at 74 minutes with an average individual track time ranging from 5 to 6 minutes. Some severe instances, such as “Giorgio” and “Touch”, nearly scrape the 10 minute mark. Long running times aren’t necessarily ever a bad thing, but the problem is that Daft Punk fails to devise nearly enough reasons to keep you listening for that long; ”Giorgio”’s arpeggios repeat ad nauseum while an ancient Italian disco hero everyone now suddenly has feigned reverence for stumbles through his pretentious origins with uncomfortable senility. Even the once gloriously basking in sunset “Get Lucky” provokes a few yawns with its extended treatment, its sleek structure now stretched and its potency dulled.
The features all feel obligatory and the melodies through virtually the entire album are as uninteresting and generic as the instrumentals themselves, the most obvious culprit being “Instant Crush” which merely adds to the surplus of evidence that Casablancas’ relevance ended when the needle left Side B of Is This It. Rising above the monotony is a fleetingly special moment in “Touch”. After sifting through an ugly sci-fi tinged introduction and a grating performance by Paul Williams (whose softcore power balladeer stylings recall Micheal Bolton’s appearance earlier this year on Kid Cudi’s similarly excess drenched and self –entitled “Indicud" album) that builds into nothing less than a shameless carbon copy of the “Get Lucky” riff, the robots finally make their endless repetition work as a captivating melody highlights the mantraesque “Hold on, if love is the answer, you’re home”. A choir fades in and out as if stopping by on their way to another session recording. This small moment of bliss ends as toilet noises reprise and the chord progression overstays its welcome. Finally, Williams (Paul, not the regrettably twice featured Pharrell) returns and ends the song in aimless passive aggression. “Touch, you’ve almost convinced me I’m real”. I hope Daft Punk have huge stupid smiles on behind their opaque future visors.
Gone are the sonic experiments that usually hallmark successful electronic releases. If Daft Punk were truly attempting to emulate the 70’s and 80’s on this bloated and irrevocably flawed fourth LP, they didn’t do the golden decades much justice. If anything, they captured the feeling you felt sneezing in the stuffy Goodwill while the Bee Gees played over the speakers as you stared at the cracked and smudged jewel case to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack because you thought it was a Bowie record.