The new Daft Punk record brings up this seminal debate: how do we judge art from artists that have a reputation?
There's a component to this criticism where we should look back to everything the Frenchmen have done in their previous records. It would be a sin not to, because it explains the progression of their art. This isn't a new album from a new artist, but a new album from an artist hell-bent on reinvention.
On that metric, the album is a disappointment, because it doesn't sound like the other Daft Punk records. Daft Punk never made music for just listening; they made pulsating music that you could dance to, and here we have Giorgio by Moroder which is more of a "history lesson" (as Diplo described on Twitter) than it is a song. All this is true. It's disappointing people because they wanted to dance for 40 minutes. They wanted to be taken to the sonic techno dreamscape that Daft had embodied for all these years.
But then there's the other way of looking at it. We have a record that has been nothing but a quantum shift in every respect of their image and persona. There haven't been music videos. The duo have been doing interviews and shooting TV commercials. They're recording everything on analog recorders and sparingly pulling out the drum machines. There isn't a tour, nor are there distinct singles (Get Lucky needed to be remixed slightly to fit in the paradigm of a single, if that's any indication, and it's the most single-worthy song on the album). Daft Punk are acting like incredible hipsters here, and they have the fiscal resources and the artistic clout to do such a thing.
I fall into the later camp; I appreciate this embodiment of something different. And that's what it is; different. I'm not scared of something different. I want them to be different, because it means they're not bored. When they're not bored, they have a greater chance of surprising us. It's the same reason why everyone's leaving SNL all of the sudden; there's a banality to telling the same jokes every week, even if you get an audience of millions and the adoration of the nation.
So even if you don't like the new Daft Punk album and all of its eccentricities, we should be thankful that there are artists out there that aren't caught in a loop. Everything they do in the future will be better because of it.
And besides, in a couple of years they'll tour again and melt our faces with a stage experience like we've never seen. Picture a big-band techno roadshow with live-instrument remixes of their entire discography. They won't need (as many) flashy lights; they'll have the tangibility there to replace it. I don't have the audacity or Pitchfork-iness to say that RAM will change music. Just that it's refreshing.