9. Daft Punk – ‘Homework’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, House, Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

Daft Punk - 'Homework'

Daft Punk * Homework * 1996 * Soma / Virgin

Parisian-born duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem Christo have been friends since meeting in school in 1987. Fans of The Beach BoysT. Rex and FM radio hits of the ’70s and ’80s, they packed a wealth of tacky influences into some of the most devastating music of the last 20 years. And it began with Homework, a distinctive mash-up of electro beats, hard techno and disco house that tapped into our collective unconscious of old school funk.

“We wanted to make something for people to listen to in their bedrooms,” Daft Punk once said of their first album. “Maybe if they have homework to do. Or want to relax.” This is a tidy definition of Homework, but it’s also a classic bit of French irony — the art of meaning the opposite while sincerely meaning the literal at the same time.

Homework was simultaneously tough and sweet, ranging from hypnotic dance workouts to washing machine grooves. ‘Daftendirekt,’ ‘WDPK 83.7 FM’ and ‘Revolution 909′ kicked things off magnificently, from rumbling, churning, beastly funk, to the sweet refrain of “musique,” to a banging house club being crashed by party-pooping cops.

Breakout single ‘Da Funk’ whipped through snarling riffs while the global hit ‘Around the World’ circled to a happy melody walking with sprightly feet. Quieter moments like ‘Fresh’ with its cooing electric guitar betrayed not only a hint of melancholy but a versatility of style and mood. And far from being arrogant, ‘Teachers’ gave shout-outs to influences as disparate as George ClintonBrian WilsonJeff MillsGreen VelvetDJ Hell and Dr. Dre.

But it was techno monsters like the screeching ‘Rollin’ & Scratchin’ that made Homework an uncompromising fist in the air. Closer ‘Alive’ was an anarchic anthem for the ages, music that would scare kiddies and alarm parents of any generation. It’s a slamming trip to the Beyond, shuddering with a primal force that blows down the walls of perceived reality, burning at the core of a deeper dimension.

In classic Daft Punk fashion, the duo took their name from a Melody Maker review of their first single, a cover of The Beach Boys’ ‘Darlin,’’ which dismissed their music as “daft punk.” Turning the criticism on its head, the pair headed back to the drawing board with a perfectly self-effacing name. Ever wary of the spotlight, they wore animal masks and robot suits to outsmart pop fascism.

There’s a pattern here. Daft Punk have been consistently underestimated by critics and fans alike. In 2001, XLR8R magazine ran a long screed against Daft Punk’s Discovery album, bemoaning its corrupting pop influences. They couldn’t see past that same sincere French irony, the album’s embrace of over-the-top guitar solos and bubble-gum hooks. Upon careful listen, it was yet another supreme manifesto that went on to influence artists across the globe.

Now more than ten years after their first album, Bangalter and De Homem Christo find themselves at the vanguard of electronica. They’re also the biggest French music export since Edith Piaf and Claude Debussy. And in just one decade, they’ve influenced everyone from LCD Soundsystem and Justice to Madonna and Kanye West.

That’s the genius at the heart of Daft Punk. What at first seems like homework is tomorrow’s old school — avant garde funk masquerading as infectious party music for the masses.

1. Daftendirekt
2. WDPK 83.7 FM
3. Revolution 909
4. Da Funk
5. Phoenix
6. Fresh
7. Around the World
8. Rollin’ & Scratchin’
9. Teachers
10. High Fidelity
11. Rock’n Roll
12. Oh Yeah
13. Burnin’
14. Indo Silver Club
15. Alive
16. Funk Ad

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