Homework (Virgin, 1997)
Discovery (Virgin, 2001)
Alive 1997 (Virgin, 2001)
Human After All (Virgin, 2005)
n/a Musique Vol. 1 1993–2005 (Virgin, 2006)
n/a Alive 2007 (Virgin, 2007)
The French duo Daft Punk's essential, career-defining insight is that the problem with disco the first time around was not that it was stupid but that it was not stupid enough. After an abortive career in rock as Darlin', Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo recorded Homework. They slowed the 4/4 whomp of house down to bumping speed, then duct-taped to squelchy acid noise and strutting synthesizer themes straight out of the Giorgio Moroder songbook. Its audacity is a hoot, and the robot two-step of "Around the World" (and its video) became a club perennial.
Daft Punk took its time recording the followup; meanwhile, Bangalter and some friends, as Stardust, made a glorious and much-compiled straight-up disco single "Music Sounds Better With You." Discovery follows the same path, throwing in vocoders and vintage analog synths: Who needs a song if you have a hook? The dance hit "One More Time" leads the march of the boogying cyborgs, and the more they dumb the album down, the funkier it gets. Housecleaning music all night long! Alive 1997 is an extended rehash of four Homework tracks with a bit of crowd noise. It's great if you have a billion-watt sound system and a mountain of drugs at home, but it's not too useful otherwise.
Human After All is a disappointing studio album about the evils of technology (or something), with some great moments ("The Prime of Your Life"), some riff-heavy rock ("Robot Rock"), and too many raw grooves that go nowhere. Alive 2007 leans too much on recent work, but is still a lot of fun: Bangalyer and de Homem Christo, who regularly wear robot costumes and play in front of a giant pyramid of lights, bring the intensity, especially on the closing medley of "Superheroes," "Human After All" and "Rock 'N' Roll." Musique is a very good hits collection, though you may be better off just buying the first two albums.
Portions of this album guide appeared in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (Fireside, 2004).
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