BY BRIAN GODAR
Disclaimer: I don’t want there to be any confusion, so I’ll come right out and say it. “Daft Punk is the greatest duo in the history of music.” – Brian Godar, 2013.
If you disagree with that statement, then you may not want to read the rest of this article, as I talk about how amazing they are. A lot.
In 1992, a French cover band named Darlin’ was eking out a living by opening stage shows across Britain. The members of the band were average and the music they played was nothing special, but without a music reviewer labeling their sound as nothing more than “daft punk,” the landscape of electronic music would be vastly different today. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Cristo, rather than despairing, found the wording of that review to be quite funny and left Darlin’ to start a new project. Their style shifted from guitar-based rock cover songs to drum machines and synthesizers, and Daft Punk was born.
Since then, Daft Punk has been at the forefront of electronic music, constantly pushing their music as far as it can go. Though they have only released three studio albums to date (1997’s Homework, 2001’s Discovery, and 2005’s Human After All), each is considered a seminal work in electronic music. Due to an early decision to prioritize creative control over money, the group has a certain level of freedom that most successful artists do not share. This can be a double-edged sword for fans of their music. It’s good because it means that everything Daft Punk does is unique and fresh. It’s bad because it means that when the duo hits a dry patch creatively, we are sometimes left waiting a long time for new music.
This particular wait is finally over. The duo recently announced that they will be dropping their fourth album sometime in May, and the music world is buzzing with excitement. There are rumors of collaborations with other artists, but the real excitement is hearing what new sounds the French duo have come up with since their last album over eight years ago. After Human After All, Daft Punk went on an extended tour of Europe and North America. Their tour hit up Lollapalooza in 2007, recording the widely-hailed Alive 2007 album. After that, there was a hiatus until it was announced that Daft Punk would write and perform the entire soundtrack to the 2010 movie Tron: Legacy.
The tour and the movie soundtrack were fine examples of Daft Punk music, but in the end, they were little more than remixes and combinations of old songs. I can still remember the first time I heard a Daft Punk album. One of my friends, out of the blue, insisted that I borrow his copy of Discovery. Since he was so adamant, I decided to give the CD a listen. I had never heard electronic music before, and when the synth-infused “One More Time” started playing, I’m not going to lie, I was very confused. I wondered why this song that sounded like a 70’s disco hit on steroids was so popular and why it was on an electronic album (my understanding of electronic music at the time boiled down to things like laser sound effects and heavy drum beats). By the time “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” reached its chorus, I was hooked. I listened to that CD five times through in that first day. The sound was so different and unlike anything else that I had heard. I felt like I was discovering an entirely new form of music.
That anticipation of discovering something new and exciting is exactly what I feel right now. The duo is going in a different direction yet again by collaborating with other artists on this album. For everything that they have changed over the years, Daft Punk has always remained a duo. Bringing in other electronic artists is a good sign because it means they are pushing their own limits and it tells me that Daft Punk is trying to push the boundaries of electronic music by merging the more traditional styles of the other artists with whatever new sounds the duo has been working on over the past eight years. The as-of-yet untitled album drops sometime in May, and that is all that is known about this project. Daft Punk is famous for their secrecy, donning robot masks in all their album artwork and live performances, so it is anyone’s guess what this album will actually sound like and who is collaborating, but one thing is for sure: electronic music is about to get a huge robot-booted kick in the ass.