et me make something abundantly clear: I hate disco. It was nothing more than an excuse for coked-up rich white hipsters to dress flamboyantly and shake their collective groove thangs in mindless, Watership Down rabbit-style.
As much as I loathe boy/girl bands and modern r&b, those genres are nothing more than pimples on disco's pale, flaccid ass. But like all great human tragedies, a silver lining can be found within discoteque purgatory. The movement did inadvertently spawn a handful of classic albums and singles. It was the main catalyst for the punk genre in response to its excess and polished gloss. It fueled the new wave movement with a higher level of acceptance regarding the synthesizer as a legitimate instrument, and transitively, the electronica of today, including French act Daft Punk.
Content to dabble in bouncy house music and engaging yet cut-and-paste rhythms on their debut, Homework, Daft Punk breaks out that giant mirrorball and platform shoes for their long-awaited sophomore release, Discovery. Make no mistake about it - Discovery is not an electronica album, or even a house album - it's disco. From the ultra-processed vocals to the prefabricated guitar "solos," Daft Punk has created what is quite possibly the world's greatest disco album, ever. (My apologies to the Pet Shop Boys).
Discovery is a huge slab of ripe cheese, self-aware of its dubious roots and questionable artistic merit, resulting in alternating moments of genuine tribute and knowing winks of absurdity. Compulsively danceable ("One More Time"), irresistibly sappy ("Digital Love") and unfortunately sometimes as irritating as a termite in your ear ("Short Circuit"), Daft Punk has crafted an album that at once collectively pulls the best and worst elements of the genre into a (mostly) endlessly listenable platter.
The album's first four songs form a suite of resplendent glitter with enough energy to carry you through the album's lesser moments, such as a sampled Barry Manilow ("Superheros") and the overly long closer, appropriately titled, "Too Long".
"One More Time" makes you aware of Daft Punk's intentions from the get-go, as guest singer Romanthony's voice gets the 'talking Macintosh' treatment, sounding like the ecstasy-retarded brother of Radiohead's paranoid android. "Music's got me feelin' so fine/We're gonna celebrate/Celebrate and dance so free.." is repeated ad infinitum as a stupidly happy synth loop drums you into drooling oblivion for the next five minutes. "One More Time" teeters on the line between being repetitive to the point of annoyance and simply hypnotizing. Fortunately it never loses its footing for a second.
The energy level is only upped for "Aerodynamic", the next track. A collage of drum loops and a searing Van Halen-styled riff that struts its stuff all over your speakers so well you expect David Lee to pop up at any moment, "Aerodynamic" will have even the staunchest disco-hater pumping their fist in the air.
"Digital Love" is a track of such wondrous robotic funk that I'm sure Prince is weeping tears of envy somewhere in Minnesota. It's the sound of computers "networking," if you catch my drift. Even the ridiculous Supertramp-emulating keyboard chill section works unbelievably well, despite its recent inclusion in a Gap commercial. I've never wanted to buy parachute pants so badly. The oozing sentiments of "Digital Love" melt perfectly into the mathematical precision of "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger", which is every bit as dynamic and anthemic as its title suggests.
The second half of Discovery is much weaker, filled with holes and mine traps for your ears, but for those willing to tread with caution, there can be rewards. Skip past the emotionless ambient sludge of "Nightvision", as well as the aforementioned "Superheros" if you value your health and well-being at all. But in your dealings with the 'skip' button on your player, make sure to make a pit stop at "Something About Us", which is nearly as brilliantly cheesy as "Digital Love". Gotta love those talk-boxes, man.
"Voyager" and "Veridis Quo", a pair of instrumentals that seem like lost Duran Duran singles without Simon LeBon's prattling are also worth a look. If you are unable to find even modest pleasures with Daft Punk's Discovery, then you aren't a fan of dance music in any of its permutations. Now if you'll excuse me, that damn mirrorball is giving me a headache.
Reviewed by: Keith Gwillim
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01