Daft Punk Human After All

[Virgin; 2005]

Styles: electronic, dance, house
Others: Basement Jaxx, Stardust, Les Rythmes Digitales

Can this really be happening? After at least eight years of being the untouchable golden boys of electronic dance music, Daft Punk have released an album so bland and repetitive that it may actually call into question all their past glory. It doesn't seem fathomable, but alas, the proof is seemingly inscribed in each note.

Being a Daft Punk fan who has eagerly anticipated the release of a new album for four years now, I admit that expectations were high; but even without such hopes, this album would fail to raise a complete neophyte's pulse. Take, for example, the opening title track, "Human After All." The vocoder vocal's lead melody line is boring and goes absolutely nowhere, while the tempo is mired somewhere in a subdancefloor mode. The result is a monotonous song that seems devoid of any of Daft Punk's earlier vitality -- this is music that robots would make if scientists with no interest in making music had programmed them.

This might be excusable if it was only meant as ironic commentary on the lyric and title of the album, but the rest of the songs are of the same unimaginative ilk. Song titles such as "Steam Machine," "The Brainwasher," and "Television Rules the Nation" actually seem to acknowledge the sense of lack that pervades the album. In this way, maybe the album is functioning as some perverse critique of pop music's vacuity, but who's the target of such criticism? Are Daft Punk chastising their fanbase for being uncritical consumers of musical pabulum? Will those who refuse to buy the album be the ones who "get" the concept?

At a time when rock bands have been artfully flirting with dance rhythms, and new indie disco divas like Annie have been pumping life back into dance culture, it's tragic that Daft Punk have simply spun their wheels on this latest effort. When Homework hit the streets, the beats were unrelenting, and Discovery seemed to realize the soulful and shimmery promise of the Stardust side project. Now, after the wait, this new album only proves one thing: Daft Punk are humans. And to err is human, after all.

1. Human After All
2. The Prime Time of Your Life
3. Robot Rock
4. Steam Machine
5. Make Love
6. The Brainwasher
7. On/Off
8. Television Rules the Nation
9. Technologic
10. Emotion