We are all on the cusp of a disco revival in the form of Daft Punk’s imminent return to our speakers and headphones. The catchy, Nile Rodgers blessed, funk forerunner, Get Lucky has reminded us of what it is like to lose ourselves in a rolling bassline. The return of the two robots made me think back to when I first heard one of the greatest albums of all time, in my opinion, at least, Discovery.
The year was 2002 and I was a 12 when I first caught an earshot of the electronic pulses that were known as Daft Punk. Discovery was released in March of 2001 but like everything back then I was a bit late to the party. I had heard my Dad murmuring about something special in the way he usually does i.e. putting his headphones on and blasting a CD out while sitting in the living room near you so you can hear everything he is listening to. After disgruntled looks and telling him to turn the volume down, I asked him what he was bopping to. He exclaimed “You have to hear this”. I chose not to as it was not “cool” to like the music my dad liked, I mean I had street cred to attain. After him buzzing about them for several months, I asked him who he was listening to and he told me it was Daft Punk. I thought they were a 70s band who he was just reminiscing about at first. Then came a moment of real confusion, a music video, on that once lifeblood that was The Box. The animation started and the name Daft Punk came up, I must also mention I was unaware of anything pre-Discovery. The animation seemed dated to my young and pre-pubescent brain, which triggered another reaction “Boy, music was funky in the 70s wasn’t it”. I was not a very clever child and it is debatable if I am as an adult. The 5 minutes that One More Time was on were like an insight into the workings of The Wizard of Oz. Deranged yet perfectly sane, colourful yet perfectly natural. I had to delve deeper.
So I braved it. I asked my father if I could listen to his CD. The giddy excitement in his face made me think otherwise but I thought no, I should really give it a chance. So I took the case in my hand and sloped to my bedroom. I grabbed my metallic looking portable CD players. Pressed the open button and delicately placed the mysterious black disc into the nest of the CD player. I closed the lid, pressed play and grabbed my warm can of Dr. Pepper waiting for the ride to begin.
It started, the repetitive slaloming of keyboards and percussion rolling into screams of One More Time. This the song I had heard before, took on a whole new meaning as an album starter. Announcing to the audience to herald such a disco stomper and the crows of One More Time, encouraging you to enjoy yourself. As my Dr. Pepper got warmer so did the feeling inside my dance induced brain. Great start.
Church bells chime as if to say, it is time to start getting serious. Then the fuzzy rhythms of Aerodynamic hit you like a comet would the Earth. That guitar jaggedly weaving it’s way to your bloodstream and then it all comes together for rock/disco experience like no other. My Dr. Pepper had to wait while my mouth opened wider and wider in shock.
The wind hustles me into what seems like a celebration. The muffled and robotic voice comes in with melancholy feelings of love. The beat chugs away and gets quieter and quieter before it bursts into life with the processed guitar and keys melding into a sound rhthym. The song takes a more dramatic turn before returning to it’s slightly poppy vibe. I go to the edge of my seat when it takes on a whole new gear and moves into ELO territory. BOOM. Guitar solo of the Gods and all the emotion of love rolled into it. I knew, instantly, that this was the crux of the album and the one song I would be listening to until I died a slow disco induced death.
Repitition is the theme for the next track on the black box of magic. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger are the calls from the discombogulated voice, which filters it’s way through a stuttering groove that makes me want to jerk my head about and do the robot until I can move no more.
The next song pounds away at you at first before it comes into eschew you back into a celebration of life and partying. Despite being in a room on my own, I felt like I was with everyone all over the world celebrating this seminal moment. To say I enjoyed it, would be an understatement.
The somberness and sultriness of Nightvision seems to serve as a gentle holding call song while you catch your breath from the up and down emotions of the 5 songs previous.
The album almost starts again with a drumroll and the stomping beat that follows makes me want to pump my fist. So much so I spill my Dr. Pepper but I didn’t care. A warcry for people to party like they never have before. People marching their way through the streets to protest about life with disco. I have never felt so Alive. Lazers and soft synths precede to lighten the tone and take you into a saccharine laced heaven.
The urgency of the next track on this superb checklist was High Life. An out and out club track featuring samples of someone sounding vaguely like Donna Summer. The way it tredges in and out of the headphones makes me want to get off my seat and dance my baggy pant wearing booty off and lose myself. The heaviness of the CD player means that I am restricted by my arms do all the work.
Then the keys start and it slips into something that I figure was misplaced. It sounds nothing like anything on the record before. The hiccuping sample jigs between sparse production and then a guitar picks it’s way into a man singing about love. This makes me feel desolate and alone but the groove keeps me intrigued and what I hear does not quite grasp with my youthful brashness. I click my fingers and imagine I am lost in the streets of New York slowly lighting up the streets like Michael Jackson in the Billie Jean music video except without the swagger.
I return to my Dr. Pepper as the mood keeps itself restrained for the next in a line of dance inspired movements. This is out and out bass and guitar licks that almost feels like an intermission before a third chapter in this compelling funkory (yes I just merged funk and story). It is the song I feel least about but I feel like that is what it is meant to be. Dr. Pepper finished.
As the Sun begins to set, so does the album with just four more tracks. It feels like a lifetime since One More Time first pierced my expectant eardrums. What sounds like it belongs in the Neverending Story starts and almost as if we were on that mythical beast that is Falcor, cruising above the skylines of listless buildings while the clouds evaporate around me. I am lost in Daft Punk’s story.
The drums hit me and I am in the midst of a hip-hop storm that seems like it would suit the N*E*R*D album that I was so into. It segues itself off into game music more and I feel as though I should be playing Streets of Rage, mashing the buttons until my character functions enough to complete his daily routine of beating ’em up.
That drum returns to stomp but not with the same celebration as Superheroes. Here comes the most straight forward song after the most convoluted mesh of electronic instruments on the whole album. It feels like a boxing match of styles. The poppy verses, the funk bassline, the house chorus line and the rock shifted to the periphery. This is a song of influence and putting it all together. It feels a world away from the beginning of the album. I am a world away from where I was before the album.
I reach the climax as a man exclaims “Too Long”. What are they trying to tell me. When I analyse what I can with my immaturity I realise that they are implying something totally different. It has been Too Long since we had grooves like this, that make you want to move your body in all different directions. Bopping your head back and forth, as the Sun glistens on your sunscreen protected skin. Getting the best people you know in a room and having a moment of dance related euphoria. I can’t help myself, I have my CD player in hand and I am pulling the worst/best moves I can think of to this insatiable vibe I have stolen from two French pioneers brains. I keep getting asked “Can you feel it?” I don’t have the time to answer as I have just got lost in the moment and I am surging with dance fever. I imagine it is what happened when the Jackson 5 released their own question of “Can You Feel It?” I don’t even realise that I am 8 minutes through a song but time isn’t of the essence. Getting my body to gyrate as frantically as it can is of the essence.
I have reached the end of my Discovery and it feels like it just belongs to me. I walk back to my Dad’s room and hand back the CD with that same giddy look on my face that he had when he handed it to me. We shared the same experience and I knew this was something to cherish. We don’t relate to each other on a great deal but this was an album we knew had taken us both to a special place.
So as Random Access Memories prepares for it’s release, I begin to return to that time in my life where I knew nothing of funk and discovered it. I hope a new generation will discover theirs in a months time.