Saturday, April 26, 2014

Random Access Crap: An Unposted Review from January

Why is it when I delve into contemporary music culture I am usually disappointed?

I like Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’. A lot. It is a delightful blend of upbeat dance tracks and slower love songs. So When I hear the horribly bland imperative “Lose yourself to dance” over a weak beat on their new ‘Random Access Memories’ I’m concerned. Not only that – the songs have become terribly predictable. I found myself predicting key changes and lyrics. Sure, in dance music there’s repetition. But this was dull.

This is the first album I’ve bothered with since ‘The Electric Lady’ due mainly to the respect I had for ‘Discovery’ combined with the approval of the Grammy award. I’m not part of the zeitgeist, but I want to be aware of the cultural touchstones of the era.

It’s going to be one of those divisive shifts, like the distinction between ‘Aquemini’ and ‘Stankonia’ for OutKast (remember them?). Of course there was ‘Human After All’ in between for Daft Punk, but most people didn’t care for that attempt.

Slow crap. I don’t need techno slow crap. If I want slow electronica I’ll go to Brian Eno, circa 1978. If I want vocoder sounds I’ll listen to Kraftwerk, again circa 1978. What the hell did this album add, achieve, or innovate? I’m ready to blame a lot of this on contributing songwriter Paul Williams, whose best song was “Rainbow Connection” from…circa 1978. But he’s only on two tracks.

And the lyrics! If you are going to do slow songs, you better put extra effort in the lyrics. That’s what made tracks like “Something About Us” work.:

“It might not be the right time
I might not be the right one
But there's something about us I want to say
Cause there's something between us anyway”

But on ‘Random Access’ we’re treated to this, from “The Game of Love”:

“This is the game of love
And it was you
And it was you
The one that would be breaking my heart
When you decided to walk away
When you decided to walk away”

After the pathetic “Lose Yourself to Dance” Pharrell Williams returns with the single “Get Lucky” which actually has a beat, and uses some of the sound ‘Discovery’ listeners will recall as finding enjoyable about Daft Punk. The album starts to pick up and make up for deficits from the first half. But you’re already eight tracks into a thirteen track album, and it doesn’t last.

I kept waiting for tracks to end, glancing at runtimes, in a hope the next would convey the sound I had bargained for. And then…towards the end it sounds like the back, worse, half of Zappa’s ‘Freak Out!’ for an uncomfortable amount of time before launching into something saccharine to close it out.


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