daft-punk-random-access1[xrr rating=4.25/5]If you thought the unabashed reverence for disco died along with LCD Soundsystem, think again.

By now, you all know the story: not just the hubbub surrounding Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, but everything in the French duo’s career leading up to it. They revolutionized dance music twice, with 1997’s Homework and 2001’s Discovery, only to land with a thud on 2005’s Human After All. The latter was redeemed when remixed live with their old songs on Alive 2007, a record that captures the duo’s now legendary Pyramid Tour. One underwhelming soundtrack to one underwhelming movie and an even worse remix album of that soundtrack later, you could understandably label Daft Punk “lost,” mostly because you’re out of breath trying to list their recent disappointments.

So what do you do when you’re off the map? You take solace in the familiar. All things considered, in the context of Daft Punk’s recent output, the disco-inspired Random Access Memories is an impressive feat. It’s very possible that with Random Access Memories, Daft Punk will get ahead by simply looking back: pop music academics have often lamented disco as a misunderstood genre and era of music history, one whose revolutionary mixing of black and gay cultures is often overlooked in favor of its ridiculous clothing and even more ridiculous dance moves. Random Access Memories, whose playful title perfectly mirrors its characteristics (the album is essentially a computerized, random moment in history), pays a worthy tribute to disco. It features Chic’s Nile Rodgers and more notably Giorgio Moroder, the man behind Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” a song that signifies the moment in music history when disco turned techno. On “Giorgio by Moroder,” Moroder describes thinking that the Moog would be the future of music over, yes, a Moog-laden electro-prog beat.

Out of context, however, and outside the distracting chatter surrounding its release, Random Access Memories is timeless: simultaneously a slice of musical history of which its revelers did not take part and a sleek, refreshing, contemporary take on disco and funk. Forget that the album is laden with past and present all-stars: “Doin’ It Right,” which features Animal Collective’s Panda Bear on his best vocal turn since anything off of Merriweather Post Pavilion, has the potential to top dance charts with its party-anthem-worthy repetitive refrain. “Instant Crush” features the face of cool circa Discovery, the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas himself. The move to include Casablancas (as well as the other guests) seems like a purposeful attempt to document the history of “cool,” as Random Access Memories certainly does. Yet, Casablancas is not fully recognizable on “Instant Crush,” a title that accurately describes the listener’s relationship with the song: beautiful, warped vocals somehow sound aloof and emotional, teasing and hard-to-get at the same time, a combination that Casablancas has always mastered. Meanwhile, less recognizable than Casablancas is Pharrell on the funky “Lose Yourself to Dance” and hit single “Get Lucky,” one more entry in the already great history of chart-topping songs about staying up all night and having sex.

There’s no denying that Random Access Memories is cheesy, but to use that label negatively isn’t necessarily missing the point as much as denying Daft Punk credit for their sense of humor, playfulness and honest passion. The duo recognizes the pure sentimentality behind the first half of Paul Williams collaboration “Touch,” embracing their past obsessions no matter how silly. It’s this contrast that truly makes Random Access Memories complex: as much as it’s a musical history book meant to invite listeners on a past journey, it’s a deeply personal document for Daft Punk. While their love for disco and funk has never really been a secret, they own it here. If anything mirrors the true legacy of disco – the all-inclusive, “you be you” atmosphere of a ‘70s dance floor – it’s the excellent Random Access Memories.

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