Sunday, June 2, 2013

Nitpickery: Random Access Memories -- It's Okay to Say No

Hey y'all.  Have you heard the rant wars about Daft Punk?  They've just released their new album, Random Access Memories, and it has been getting pretty polarized reviews.  On the one hand, you have the people who are disappointed that this album sounds pretty unlike anything else Daft Punk has done.  On the other, you have those who like the new sound and are irritated that anyone misses Daft Punk's old sound.  It's been really weird to read into, and you can get the picture pretty clearly by reading their iTunes reviews.

I have listened to the samples (I'm listening right now), and it's immediately obvious that this album is in fact nothing much like their previous ones, other than some vocodor synth and a little funk.  The lyrics in themselves are very cheesy, and talk a lot about love, much like a pop song would.  Let's get this straight.  Regardless of how you, me, or anyone else feels about this album, it is a fact, pure and simple, that this album is far more mainstream than Daft Punk has ever done.

Whenever someone says that those that dislike this album are simply afraid of change, and that Daft Punk has the right to experiment, I always get iffy.  For one, that's a label, and labels are cheap substitutes for logic.  Here at Arc Rose, we do not accept substitutes for logic.  Now, on the surface, it is true that Daft Punk can experiment as much as it wants, but there are two problems with that concept as pertains to this album.

First of all, when someone buys a Daft Punk album, they are expecting something daft and something punk.  The word "daft" implies insane, something that doesn't make any sense.  "Punk" is about being abrupt and forthright, interrupting the mainstream with a sound that refuses to settle down.  We have come to expect over the years that Daft Punk is a weird band, and by purchasing anything by them, the fans expect weirdness.  We do not expect that the album will be instrumental, lyrical, minimal, and extremely pop.  Daft Punk has built its fanbase by being odd, and having them do an album like this is like buying a box labelled "chocolate", only to open the box and find that we have instead purchased a box of fruit gummies.  It's like Super Mario starring in a video game that's a first person shooter where he has to fight terrorists.

Actually, you know what?  I have the perfect metaphor.  Star Fox Adventures.  Random Access Memories is the Star Fox Adventures of Daft Punk.  Star Fox SNES and Star Fox 64 (Discovery, Alive, etc) were excellent games (albums) and people loved them for what they were, expecting more similar games with exactly as much fun.  But then came Star Fox Adventures (Random Access Memories) that completely changed the genre of what people loved, alienating old fans and attracting new fans that had had no previous relationship with the franchise (band) and started hating on everyone who disliked their favorite.

By now you can surely guess that I was one of their off-put old fans.  I very recently watched Interstella 5555, the animation set to Daft Punk's album Discovery, and was so immersed by the film that I went ahead and bought the album.  I love Daft Punk's oddity, and when I heard at the store that they had a new album out, I was instantly intrigued.  When was the last time they'd put something out?  And then I was disappointed.

You know what?  It is okay to be disappointed because your expectations weren't met.  Every band out there has a sound, and if that band should betray it's traditional sound, it's bound to irk its fans.  While some bands seriously need to break out of their chosen sound (*cough*Coldplay*cough*), I've always felt that Daft Punk's sound was flexible, experimental, and bizarre enough to carry them through their entire careers.  This album is just too big a change, however.  It's like ZZ Top suddenly deciding that they want to rap.

Secondly, this album is not experimentation.  Not in the slightest.  You might say it is because this is a direction that Daft Punk hasn't taken before, but the problem with that is that it's a road that almost every single other electronic artist has been down and then grown out of.  This is not forwards, this is backwards.  It's mainstream stuff that I can get by going to the store and buying any one of those "TOP TWENTY DANCE TRACKS OF THE YEAR" that used music stores have jammed in the back of the shop.  It's just pop songs done up a little bit electronically, just like any DJ Noob can produce.

However, don't take my disappointment for hate.  I don't hate this album.  None of the tracks make me want to stab myself in the ears.  I feel very peaceful towards some tracks, having the feeling that later I may like them better later.  Other tracks I know I will never care for, but I actually kind of like Motherboard and Contact.  So long as they never become "album only" tracks, I'll probably buy them on iTunes.  I know a lot of people like Get Lucky, but the lyrics are too stupid for me.  Sort of like Paul Oakenfold's Faster Kill Pussycat.  The fact that Daft Punk can be properly compared to Oakenfold is just sad.

So for now, I'll just sit back and hope that Daft Punk remembers why we love it so much.  The pop crowd is fickle, and Daft Punk did not reach its popularity by producing things like Random Access Memories.  It reached those heights by being true, being weird, and being itself: two bizarre robot dudes trying, and failing, to be human.

Before I continue, I want to address something.  There seems to be a movement out there that seems to say that it's wrong to say anything negative (not just this album or Daft Punk), and that anyone who dislikes something is a hater that just doesn't understand or is too stuck on old ways, fearful of change.  This is labelism, and the death of the intellect.  The people that say these sort of things refuse to consider that perhaps the people that don't like this album (or other things) have legitimate reasons for doing so, and if nothing else the dissenters have the right to choose what they like and the right to express their opinion on what they dislike.

In other words, if someone doesn't like this album, stop being a jerk about it.  They are entitled to their opinion, and yes, it's very shocking that this album is different than the ones that came before.  They are entitled to be shocked.  If you like this album, that's nice, but don't sit there and hate on people just because they don't agree with you.

So here's hoping Daft Punk reaches better days and bigger heights, all without losing who they are.

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