52 Albums That Changed My Life (and Other Exaggerations), Chapter 14: Random Access Memories

Never been a fan of dance music especially disco. I think it comes from being a nerd and trying to fit in at a school dance. No idea how to dance, no sense of rhythm and you are just trying to make it to the slow song where you can fake dancing skills long enough to dance close with that gorgeous girl a year younger than you that you have tried desperately to tell that you are head over heels for but just comes out as “So… you like stuff?”.

True story, I once had food poisoning, threw my guts up for twenty minutes before the dance, brushed my teeth like a madman and still went to that dance just because the aforementioned girl promised she would save a dance for me. I did all that but still, couldn’t bring myself to ask her out.

So for me, dances and dance music sucked.

I pretty much kept that opinion of dance music and disco until the summer of 2013 when Daft Punk released Random Access Memories.

I was aware of Daft Punk. I even had their score to Tron: Legacy, but I had never really given much thought to their actual album output.

And then I heard “Get Lucky”

It had a beat and it was well crafted. I managed to hear a few more tracks through some various means and I loved it.

It was a disco album by robots with guest appearances from a disco legend, one of the Strokes and the guy who wrote songs for Muppets.

And I fell in love with it.

The songs on the album had a groove, they had depth and probably most importantly, they had craftsmanship.

Starting with the first track, there isn’t a dud in the 13 tracks and every track brings something different to the table. “Give Life Back to Music” is a great opener, it opens with all the flourish of a techno themed Hollywood musical and then quickly slides into a groove, that groove slows down a little bit more into “The Game of Love.”

And then you come to “Giorgio by Moroder” which is a weird song in its presentation. It’s essentially a mini spoken word bio of disco/synth pioneer “Giorgio” Moroder with an electronic soundtrack. Which surprisingly works amazingly well.

There’s a ton of really nice funky dance tracks like “Lose Yourself to Dance,” “Get Lucky,” and “Fragments of Time” but for me, the heart of the record is “Touch.” “Touch” has lyrics and vocals by Paul Williams who may best be known for by this generation as the current (as of this writing) president of American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). To my generation, he’s the man who wrote al of the best songs for the best Muppet movies and for my parents’ generation, he’s the guy who wrote “An Old Fashioned Love Song” for Three Dog Night,” The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun,” among many other hit songs.

Williams wrote lyrics for a robot or cyborg’s memory song for the longing of what he used to have. It combines the theatricality of his greatest songs with Daft Punk’s musical sensibilities and just knocks it out of the park.

To be fair, the entire album is not disco but neither was most of ABBA’s output and we pretty much throw them into that category. I never liked ABBA but I always respected them. The difference between ABBA and most of the other acts of the time was the amount of craftsmanship they would put into their songs. There’s a reason why those songs easily translated to Broadway, they were just well written and well put together. It’s very much how I feel about Random Access Memories. If it was another band, it probably wouldn’t have been half as good but Daft Punk took the time and the effort to make the material as good as it could be before it made it to the album. They took the time to bring on quality collaborators who could add something to the album as opposed to being just a guest spot.

As a result of Random Access Memories grabbing me, I dove into Daft Punk’s back catalog and discovered I rather liked their brands of music. I say brands because while there is always a little bit of a dance base to it, they seem to be a band that doesn’t repeat itself which should make their next album incredibly interesting to watch. The world and probably their record label, are probably expecting Random Access Memories II. It would be a safe bet to do, it would probably sell well but I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen. I think Daft Punk will produce something out of left field, something unexpected.

Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be made with care and quality.

Next week, we are taking a trip from the modern disco of Daft Punk to an album that had no music but did have seven very bad words.

Brent Chittenden

Brent Chittenden is a freelance writer with a gift for the geek. Currently a writer with A Journal Of Musical Things and a podcaster with True North Nerds, he's also written for Comic Book Daily, Explore Music and a dozen other places. Currently, he is the co-host of the True North Nerds podcast. You can find out more at www.facebook.com/bcchittenden

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