Tuesday, February 23, 2021

All the Robots Descend From the Stage

 I figured that everybody, including myself, needs a break from the doom and gloom litany of plague, storm, and sedition, so a pop-culture post is in order.  The big entertainment story of the week is the breakup of French dance-pop superstars Daft Punk, after  a storied career spanning twenty-eight years.  The members of this duo took their name from a bad review of a performance of their former band, Darlin', which characterized their sound as a 'daft, punky thrash'.  After the breakup of Darlin', as so many musicians before them, members Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter decided to mess around with synthesizers and drum machines, and megastardom beckoned.

Daft Punk's sound incorporated elements of house music, disco, funk, and electronic pop music, in a danceable blend.  Their first album, Homework, spawned a hit with Around the World, a song which incorporates a funky bassline with vocoder-altered vocals that would have made Kraftwerk proud:

The duo were very much invested in their privacy, and early on adopted the wearing of masks to obscure their identities, finally settling on futuristic helmets that made them seem robotic and, to those aware of the history of electronic dance music, served as an homage to the French electro-disco outfit Space.

The duo achieved international stardom with the 2000 release One More Time, their biggest hit, which featured a heavily autotuned vocal by American singer Romanthony.  The song was featured in an animated feature titled Interstella 5555, a cartoon about an alien band abducted by spacefaring baddies:


Throughout the 21st century, Daft Punk was known for their collaborations, such as the Get Lucky, a 2013 collaboration with singer Pharrell Williams:

Daft Punk also collaborated with Euro-Disco titan Giorgio Moroder, resulting in a song about the man:

They also produced music by Kanye West, and in 2016, released a track in collaboration with 2021 Super Bowl Theseus The Weeknd:

After this long career as a duo, and as collaborators with a variety of other musicians, Daft Punk decided to break up, releasing a video epilogue to their career:

Hopefully, this doesn't mark the end of this interesting musical duo... breakups tend to be followed by reunions, followed by reunion tours.  Rarely are musical breakups permanent.

I wouldn't say that Daft Punk was particularly innovative- they stood on the shoulders of bands like Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, and Space- but they were a lot of fun, and produced some lively dance music.  Not everybody can be an innovator like Ryuichi Sakamoto, but there's a place for competent journeymen who can take avant-garde elements and make them approachable... and Daft Punk excelled at this.

The post title is taken from Daft Punk Is Playing at My House, the breakout single by Brooklyn-based electronic dance music gadflies LCD Soundsystem.


bt1138 said...

They put in 28 years.

That's not a breakup, that's Retirement.

Good for them, they did alright.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Yeah, they had a good run. I think they'll be back, though, probably releasing a collaboration with the Perseverance Rover, recorded on Mars.