The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 7, 2013

Admitting disappointment in Daft Punk album is OK

JOPLIN, Mo. — I had no idea that dissing Daft Punk's new album was on the same level as burning a flag or lighting up a cigarette inside an elementary school.

Yet, that's what I did last week, apparently. I said on Facebook that "Random Access Memories" had two great songs and the rest wasn't that great. I suggested -- OK, I outright said -- that the album was overrated and that it works great as background music to whatever one might be doing, but it doesn't command enough attention throughout its entirety.

In response I was told that I should be shunned as a non-believer and that I shouldn't be reviewing music. Thus, my fragile male ego was injured.

In all seriousness, I enjoyed some good debate about the album and the relative merits of it. The people defending "Random Access Memories" as album of the year were as good-natured as I was and probably nicer than I was. It's not like I dissed Insane Clown Posse, only to have a slew of Juggalos threaten my personal safety and spam my socials with badly spelled rants about how I suck. (That last sentence will likely be a self-fulfilling prophecy -- such is my curse for knowing exactly how magnets work.)

Still, I think it's important to have this conversation about the album and the lingering disappointment it triggers. Some important points:

  • Fans have been waiting for this album for years. The band's last album, "Human After All," was released in 2005, and it wasn't quite as awesome as the band's previous albums. After touring, the band went dark until buzz escaped that it was working on the soundtrack for "Tron: Legacy," which came out in 2010. The long wait gave fans time to build unrealistic expectations.
  • Buzz and hype continued to build about this new album, which finally saw the light of day last month. The hype, which featured a vague commercial on "Saturday Night Live" and a preview at Coachella, said more about the band's marketing acumen than songwriting skills.
  • The album was expensive. Recorded around the world at different analog studios using professional studio musicians instead of samples, "Random Access Memories" sounds fantastic, in terms of audio quality.

    That's why it's hard to reconcile that there are a lot of filler songs on the album. The hits are strong and obvious: "Get Lucky" and "Lose Yourself to Dance" will be played in clubs for months. I'm tempted to throw "Doin' it Right" into that group -- the song has such a great chord structure despite its minimal sound. But most of the album's 13 songs are just filler -- richly produced, exquisite sounding filler.
  • How can anyone listen to "Giorgio by Moroder," a nine-minute track that features two minutes of Giorgio Moroder's commentary and not think of Will Sasso's impersonation of Arnold Schwarzenegger?
  • I understand there's a good argument to be made for how Daft Punk went outside of itself, transcended genres and succeeded in producing an album bigger than anything it has ever done. And that's a great point to make if we're discussing bands that aren't slaves to a radio system of marketing and genres.

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