Daft Punk returns as cool as ever

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Alex LaSalle

For a band that has yet to have an album pass $1 million in U.S. sales, there really has been a lot of hype around “Random Access Memories.”

It’s hard to shake the feeling that Daft Punk is a group that’s more fun to talk about liking than to listen to. Bob Marley has a similar issue. More of their posters are on dorm walls than songs are on iPods.

If anything, it serves as a testament to how “cool” Daft Punk is, and its new album brings it from cool to Andre-3000’s “ice cold.” The overall sound is from the ‘70s and ‘80s, when groove and funk flourished. It’s an abrupt, stylistic blast from the past from a duo that has the stage appearance of robots from the future. It mostly works.

The strongest songs are tunes that bring in help from vocalists who don’t use the robotic vocals. The best song is the lead single, “Get Lucky.” It’s funky and groovy, with perfect delivery from Pharrell, who also spices up the disco-funk of “Lose Yourself to Dance.”

Indie-pop vocals from Panda Bear of Animal Collective fame keep “Doin’ it Right” from getting too monotonous. The ‘80s-movie chill of “Instant Crush” features vocals from Julian Casablancas and might as well be from a Casablancas solo album.

That’s not to say the “cool” survives the entire album. Opening track “Give Life Back to Music” comes so close to giving life back to disco-funk, but falls just shy. “Within” is some mutated child of prom slow-dance and Daft Punk robotic vocals that comes out way better in theory than in practice.

I, for one, welcome the return of funky grooves to music. “Random Access Memories” isn’t going to change the face of popular music, but like the French duo that spawned it, it’s really cool. That’s all we really want from Daft Punk, and now we have it.