Spoiler alert: the secret Daft Punk suits are apparently flame-retardant asbestos. From the (very fancy-looking) Pitchfork cover story, made, apparently, for CSS geeks.

Spoiler alert: the secret Daft Punk suits are apparently flame-retardant asbestos. From the (very fancy-looking) Pitchfork cover story, made, apparently, for CSS geeks.

Who’s afraid of laptop musicians?

Music stories are more exciting when there are eight-foot-high walls of flames and hype to match. But what when it’s all just a special effect? And when does mystique trump the actual music in music journalism?

The new Daft Punk record is perfectly likable. It is at times arguably polished to the point of being over-thought, the opposite of the original duo’s personality that was “punk” and not just “daft.” But their new, sparkly-shiny persona is guided by a sense of their musical taste, and the earworm-y hit single is a reminder that, with pop, getting lucky really isn’t a factor. These guys know what they’re doing. It’s may, yet we already know 2013′s “summer jam.” (Your brain will, sadly, be enslaved to this track as a result. I’ll bet it’s already in your head, and I didn’t even really mention it. Let’s sing something else – “London Bridge is Falling Down,” anything.)

The problem for music journalism is, what’s the narrative?

Let’s see: Daft Punk are still hiding in bike helmets. They apparently got bored with electronic music production as they had done it in the past, so they swapped sampled parts for studio musicians. Only, because of the fame they’ve accrued, their Rolodex – erm, iPhone – has “studio musicians” like Giorgio Moroder.

Well, that’s clearly not enough. The press story has to be as big as the band. There is something genuine to pop stardom, artificial as it may seem: there are lots of people who are deeply emotionally connected to them, in a real way. And those people are your readers – and, often, writers.

So, what’s the story? Fortunately, the artists known for being masters of disguise are ready to fill in the blanks. As marketing, it’s brilliant. But it can cause the press to fall back on tired cliches about what technology and music making mean – mangling history in the process.

Enter Pitchfork, with a massive cover story showing off their Web coding chops. Here, it’s literally an orchestrated stunt, completely with fireballs. The fact that the writer describes the scene of shooting that stunt – oh, no, will someone Instagram the new outfits? – is the musical equivalent of a behind-the-scenes Blu-Ray featurette extra on your copy of Avatar. It doesn’t really dig into the meaning or substance of what you’re watching.

There is a message to the Pitchfork story, though. See if you can spot it. I’ll help – emphasis mine:

In the lead:

After 20 years, the world has finally caught up with Daft Punk, so the helmet-clad retro-futurists are embarking on a new mission: to make music breathe again.

In the story:

It’s an instinct to keep the idea of mystery alive at a time when it seems to be in historically short supply.

Everything was recorded onto analog tape in rarified recording palaces like New York’s Electric Lady and L.A.’s Capitol Studios. Human spontaneity was coveted; computers, with their tendency toward mindless repetition, were not.

(Mindless repetition? Good thing we have Daft Punk to save us from that! We’re up all night ’til the sun ‘cos your song is stuck in our heads, but, okay…)

To Daft Punk, the album is something of a corrective to a style of music that they believe is caught in a computer-addled rut.

See the pattern?

Music is apparently not breathing and lacking in magic, and only Daft Punk can save us. These are the writer’s words, not Daft Punk’s. It’s not to single out this story, either. It seems everything from conversations over beer to blog entries returns to reminiscences about music of yore.

What to Daft Punk actually say? Bangalter makes it clear that there is a self-conscious effort to do something that fans can’t:

Pete Tong did a better interview for BBC Radio 1, minus the fire effects. It’s worth a listen.

I hear two different stories from the Daft Punk duo. One is, they weren’t feeling inspired working in the traditional way with samples, and they were feeling inspired by working with instrumentalists. I wouldn’t pit Ableton Live against an 85-person orchestra (under the baton of Gavin Greenaway, on Tron: Legacy). The feeling is unparalleled; if you don’t feel inspired by an orchestra that size, ask someone to check your wrist for a pulse.

But… while not everyone can have access to a symphony orchestra, finding instrumentalists isn’t limited to an elite. There are these fantastic things called microphones and audio jacks that connect computers to the outside world. You can even use them in your bedroom, with your laptop.

So what are they really talking about?

Here’s what Bangalter has to say:

“Technology has made music accessible in a philosophically interesting way, which is great,” says Bangalter, talking about the proliferation of home recording and the laptop studio. “But on the other hand, when everybody has the ability to make magic, it’s like there’s no more magic—if the audience can just do it themselves, why are they going to bother?”

Ah-hah.

Now, I don’t bedgrudge Daft Punk of trying to do something only Daft Punk can do – that’s their job. But the press? And other artists?

Why would any of us be so afraid of basements and underground and DIY, and so affectionate for the 70s or other decades’ mainstream, commercial, industrial music?

Hard-hitting music can be made independently by people using technology. Just ask Daft Punk – no, not 2013 Daft Punk, this Daft Punk:

The golden age of music did have, at least, a good industry going for it. And just as bandstands in the early part of the century employed lots of musicians before they were killed, in part, by recording, the record industry employed more artists and musicians for a time. That merits consideration.

But we risk being nostalgic for times when average producers couldn’t afford studio time, about the era of payola and big FM stations, record labels and industry music, or more recently, corporate-consolidated radio. When we talk about the music of the few, this is the industrial world we mean.

And to say that it’s a problem that anyone can make music – that seems criminal.

The very essence of music is that anyone can make it. In every culture, in every corner of the world, in living rooms and bars and showers, people make music, and always have. The desire to stifle musical experimentation and freedom is the stuff of dictatorships, not culture. Not all good music is naive, and not all naive music is terribly good, but if you believe in free people, you are open to the idea that music can come from anywhere.

The age of the people typically writing for today’s music Web outlets means that they’re part of the Napster and/or iTunes generations, depending on when they went to college. Broadly, this is the age of Internet music. But that was supposed to bring democratization: more underground, more basement and bedroom, not less.

Instead, we get a version of electronic dance music history that warps where the whole music came from.

To their credit, Daft Punk are still name-checking Chicago house. But in Pitchfork’s world, you need giant disco pyramids and big-budget shows to be inspiring – everything that so frustrates dance music lovers about the present obsession with the American festival scene. Here’s Pitchfork again:

Skrillex, whose blinding live setup has arguably come closest to matching the pyramid’s legacy over the last few years, recalls going to see Daft Punk by himself in 2007, buying a ticket from a scalper for $170, and having his mind rearranged—without the influence of drugs or alcohol. “It was definitely that show for me,” he says. Panda Bear has called it the best concert he’s ever seen. As the tour’s official photographer, DJ Falcon got to experience around 40 shows from an enviable viewpoint.

$170 tickets and big stage effects. Got it. This is what Pitchfork describes as the “acceptance” of dance culture in the US, rather than what might to casual observers seem only like the big-budget capitalization of that culture.

David Abravanel has a stinging analysis on his personal blog. I’ll cherry pick one line, though please check it out in context. He notes that, relative to early disco, “it’s pretty ironic that Daft Punk chose to go the “we’re richer/better connected than you” route.”

Daft Punk, “Authenticity”, Classism, and Kids Growing Up [dhla]

Don’t mistake this for jealousy. On the contrary, I believe that there are lessons to be learned in music making from big acts. I love pop music, and I can have a great time at a big festival. Reverse snobbery, I believe, is also a crime (and read David’s article above in full, as he’s not doing anything of the sort).

No, I worry only about the anti-technology bent in the press, about its obsession with whether or not America is getting dance culture (having endlessly rehashed that question for the last 30-odd years), and mostly about a fear that anyone can make music.

And that’s because I believe democracy and magic are compatible, as are knowledge and magic. Bangalter is speaking about PR and buildup here, and I expect has a point:

“When you know how a magic trick is done, it’s so depressing,” he explains. “We focus on the illusion because giving away how it’s done instantly shuts down the sense of excitement and innocence.”

But – at some point I draw the line.

I’ve spent almost a decade making my living entirely through this question of how the illusion is done.

I feel no less excited, and no less innocent.

And that’s because I remain surprised and delighted by the music that people can make, and the fact that anyone can.

Maybe even on laptops.

  • gavspav

    When I read I’ll bet it already is in your head I genuinely couldn’t remember how it went for a second! Mind you Street Fighting Man by the Stones is on the radio.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Heh, I couldn’t actually keep it from looping round my brain while I was writing. ;) I do like pop songs; I wanted to make that clear. I just don’t think it means I have to throw away my laptop, stop making music, and only buy expensive festival tickets.

    • gavspav

      I think its easy to confuse personal feeling with general trends. Daft Punk must’ve spent years in studios – no wonder they got bored of ‘computer music’. I grew up listening to indie and punk – when dance music came along I couldn’t listen to it (indie/punk) so much anymore ‘cos the rhythm didn’t move me. Then after several years or so the repetition got to me and guitar based stuff sounded raw and vital again. For me anyway its cyclical. And in any case depends on my mood. Talking about musical history seems almost dated now when music from almost every era is just a click away. I get the message Daft Punk never would’ve happened if it wasn’t for Chic,Moroder,Kraftwerk etc. But if they don’t do a punk album next time around I’ll be very disappointed.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Absolutely – sometimes I need to get away from the computer. And I expect some people believe I *am* a computer… ;)

      I think we all feel that some of the time.

      There was an extended BBC Radio 1 interview where even Daft Punk pulled back a little on this. And that was exactly it – it was what they needed, personally, rather than a deeper statement about the nature of technology. The problem is having interviews where you just drool over everything the artist says. In a weird way, it does a disservice even to them.

    • mercury

      I think that you may have missed the point about the computers. The main issue I have lately with electronic music (I’ve been listening to house and techno for over 20 yrs) is that everyone uses the same presets.

      The few people that make good electronic music still use computers, but when I listen I don’t immediately recognize Massive and Maschine presets. There is an art of tailoring sounds, which used to be an integral part of production, especially with electronic music, which is very hard to find now. It’s great that everyone can make music now, but keep in mind if there is another Beatles we will never hear them again because they will be drowned out by the cacophony of a million kids who think they are the next Skrillex. The other part of this is also that so many producers have forgotten melodies and harmonies…not that you always need them but they add immensely to the emotionality of music.

      How interesting would Frampton have been, if every kid in the world could have just downloaded his sounds for free a week after the release, the ones that he had spent years crafting? Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that I can now use an SSL compressor on my tiny home studio but I also do not think that everyone in the world makes equally impressive music (in fact most of my stuff is fun, but is no where at the level of the Beatles, Radiohead, Orbital, etc, so I keep it to myself).

      I’m going to sound like a grumpy old man but living in NY, I can’t help but get tired of meeting every single music/painter/artist/graphic designer/bartender that pretends to do everything but is actually good at nothing…what happened to actually being good at something? I digress but I suspect this is what Daft feels like.

      As far as the album, it is amazing, IMO. The best tracks to me are Moroder, Contact and Doin it Right. Although the hype around it was fun, as it reminded me of waiting outside record stores at midnight on Monday nights in my youth, I wish no one had hyped it up at all. I am already realizing that like many great records, this may make more sense with repeated listens.

    • Blob

      “I’m going to sound like a grumpy old man but living in NY, I can’t help
      but get tired of meeting every single music/painter/artist/graphic
      designer/bartender that pretends to do everything but is actually good
      at nothing…what happened to actually being good at something? I
      digress but I suspect this is what Daft feels like.”

      You do not digress at all. You actually went for one of the main issues. The democratization of music technology, looping software and cheap equipment means that everyone can attempt to make music. Most of the time, people just play with music and approach it as a sort of video game. The percentage of people that are actually able to produce art has not increased. The magic is still there. The problem is that there is too much noise, too much shit being uploaded into the cloud and too many hipsters, pseudo-gangsta rappers, bedroom DJs who “all press play” (DeadMau5) and mediocre rock bands attempting to make themselves heard, and we still haven’t found a filter to turn off all the noise and find the real gems. You’re not being a grumpy old man. You’re just showing some common sense, something which is increasingly lacking.

      I’m not really with Peter on this one, or at least not completely. Daft Punk came off as overly nostalgic and elitist, but at the same time highlighted an important issue – as good as democratization of music tech has been, it has created many other problems precisely because of a lack of filter.

    • mercury

      I guess it would be ok if there were some really good blogs/Djs that filtered this out. Unfortunately, many of the magazines and blogs are part of the same machinery. Pitchfork, Fader, etc cater to their ad base making the reviews very homogeneous.

      I definitely listen to alot of music in the 60s and 70s now and am amazed at the talent. Even when something new is very good, it seems that it gets lost in the shuffle. As a result, I feel that even new bands and songs I like are listened to no more than a dozen times vs the music in the 70s and 80s which I listened to several 100s of times as a kid.

      I hope movies are not broken down to 5 min short films but I could see a future where all content is ultimately broken down to 5 min chunks. No records, movies, or books because no one has any interest in spending that much time focused on one content provider…I am sure we will all adapt but I will be nostalgic for the time when Thriller played nonstop for 2 years because it was so damn good!

  • chaircrusher

    I don’t have a problem with Daft Punk being pop stars. Good for them. I don’t have trouble with them doing live studio work with session dudes and big name guests. My problem with RAM is that it isn’t very interesting. To compare with the work of one of the collaborators, Nile Rogers, they’ve managed to make a record that’s all “Le Freak” and is missing an “I Want Your Love” moment. It’s poppy, shiny and well produced but it’s more Tony Orlando & Dawn than The Rolling Stones, to go back a bit further in musical history.

    I think some of the backlash comes from those of us who have been passionate participants of the underground — in my case for the last 20 years. Daft Punk were ‘one of us’ and they made above-ground records that didn’t foresake their underground roots. And now it seems they have. They do so by trying to recreate the most facile, shiny surface of Disco. But like all nostagia, it is for a past that didn’t actually happen.

    Here’s a moment with Thomas Bangalter from the gone world of Midwest Rave, from Even Further 1996:
    http://youtu.be/4M-fulZStKY

    And just as a complete contrast, from the same mid-90s period, something so raw and simple and perfect that it can blow the new Daft Punk off the map:
    http://youtu.be/bu0Sw-I0uXQ

  • slabman

    The DP single has a great rhythm section, pretty good singer, but only the chorus of what could be filled out to become a reasonable song. But it makes a great prompt to go and dig out those old Chic records.
    To laptop or not?
    Well, the thing about going on stage with physical instruments is – it’s fun!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6817101 Evan Bogunia

      I would argue that a laptop can become a physical instrument. AS usual, it’s up to the artist how they choose to utilize the tools available to them. I have just as much fun doing a solo set with a bunch of colorful buttons and software as I do when I strap my bass on to play with other musicians on stage.

  • cooptrol

    There’s a reason for all this: they are French

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, at least one half of them live in Beverly Hills. ;) And I would say the scene they inhabit is largely American at this point, at least in how it’s centered. On another level, it’s globalized. There is a French scene, and this ain’t it.

    • coldtea

      You mean they have taste?

      Because the “democratization” part the French did way before Americans. And if you are British, well, they never did it that well.

    • just passing

      In fairness, it’s been a good century since we did it this badly…

    • cooptrol

      i’m talking about French’s famous cockiness and deprecating attitude. Yes, it is a xenophobic comment. But their arrogance is almost a statistic.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593675787 Glenn Davey

      The French guy who moved from France to work here in Melbourne, Australia, doesn’t seem so arrogant, cocky or deprecating. And how could something “almost” be a statistic? You just turn on your computer and open your ass and thoughts come out, huh?

  • http://digitalwheelie.com/ Ted Kusio

    Great post.

    FWIW I think the media does this all the time: They find a line that sounds good and beat it to death from every angle possible. The Daily Show reveals this all the time in politics, when CNN, Fox, MSNBC etc. all coin a standard phrase or a story angle and then beat it to death as if it’s truth.

    Worst of all, for me, the new Daft Punk album’s just “OK” in my book. Oh well.

  • guest

    Very safe. Run backwards, spend money. Avoid progress. These are not the people worth writing about.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Except I wasn’t really writing about them.

    • guest

      No, you were writing about a horse. I could tell by the picture at the top of your post.

  • plurgid

    This album has a whole lot of filler on it. If you’ve listened to it, you know this is true, and I’m frankly amazed that not one single review I’ve read of it even mentions the fact. Nobody is gonna drop “Giorgio by Morodor” or “Motherboard”, or “Game of Love” or “Within” at the club … those are the dancefloor duds I remember off the top of my head, there might be one or two more.

    Now that’s not to say these tracks aren’t interesting, or nice to listen to or well produced. They are. But this album is being hailed by pretty much everyone as the explosive second coming of the disco revolution … shaking booties on dance floors the world over. No doubt that there are a few tracks on this album that will do just that. I know I’m gonna drop Get Lucky and Give Life Back to Music this weekend in a couple of my sets, without a doubt.

    And let me say I’m a pretty big Daft Punk fan … and I actually love this iteration with a live rhythm section. But the hype is much bigger than the actual album in my opinion.

    • Vitreous

      Hear hear on ignoring the hype (which seems to be what a lot of the commentary is talking about anyway). But you seem to be using “filler” and “non-dancefloor” as synonyms – if I were a DJ, I’d maybe consider dropping “Get Lucky” in a set, but beyond that I wouldn’t identify any of the tracks as “dancefloor”, at least in the contemporary sense (“Lose Yourself To Dance” would certainly fit into an older-style disco set).

      As someone who is really enjoying this album (it’s not ground-breaking in the way that Homework or Discovery were, but I think it refines and perfects the style they were moving towards, certainly in a much more satisfying way than HAL), I’m tending to keep out of these discussions, but it’s intriguing to see how those discussions generally go – people seem disappointed that 40yo guys aren’t making the same ad-hoc (though incredibly accomplished production-wise) house they were 15 years ago, while at the same time knocking them as getting old and safe. To me, this marks a reasonably predictable, if no less commendable step on a career path – putting the expderience, money, fame they’ve got to good use, not simply trying to cash in on a style that (let’s face it) they undoubtedly have much less connection to than they did as crazy 20 year olds (ah, memories).

      While I’m on a roll, an interesting article Peter, but I think you’re kicking a straw man with the whole “stifl[ing] musical experimentation and freedom is the stuff of dictatorships, not culture” thing – no way that’s what DP were trying to do… lost in translation maybe, but I think you’ve got to be spoiling for a fight to read it that way. And I think it’s rich coming from a strong, dynamic musical community that is really built around the connoisseurship of “good”, “new”, “innovative” music… the quote marks obviously indicate that I’m wary of those terms, but if they have any objective anchor, it’s surely in the never-ending quest for better produced music that also touches the listener. We can quibble whether RAM achieves the latter, but I think the point that DP were making (and it’s hardly a new one – we ain’t paying these guys to talk… at least not without a vocoder in front of them!) is that the democratisation of music has not meant a equivalent democratisation of the time, energy and dedication that are required to really master a musical craft. Fair enough, plenty of people don’t have that time, and it’s great that they can still tinker, but let’s not ditch all concept of value in pursuit of democratisation…

      Anyway, back to lurking.

    • Vitreous

      lol… must remember to close my stifled-ugh tags…

  • angstrom

    On the subject of the democratisation of music production through software:
    Humans like novelty (EG: “this sounds like something new”), and we like meaning (“this track reminds me of that great London club night”).
    But the novelty and meaning of art / entertainment is diluted by the amount of incredibly similar product available.

    Anyone who remembers entering a musical instrument store in the 80′s and encountering the horrible wail of 24 competing guitarists asynchronously murdering Stairway To Heaven will have experienced the early signs of the coming cost of democratisation. Now, what if we give everybody a free guitar and amplifier and tell me that the resultant Led Zep pastiches are in fact “punk”?
    Equally, are the 8,000,000,000,000,000 techno / dubstep tracks being produced by the mass populace some kind of “punk”? I think not, it’s often less artistic or expressive than Karaoke.

    this article about the democratisation of music making reflects my feelings
    http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/feature/everything-popular-is-wrong-making-it-in-electronic-music-despite-democratization/

    • Philip Viana

      excellent article in the link, angstrom.

  • Maurice Rickard

    Great unpacking of the PR narrative, Peter. Best I’ve seen on this so far. (Though I’ve not read David’s piece yet.)

  • http://twitter.com/a_w_young a_w_young

    Daft Punk went from destroying dance floors with material that was raw, made with few machines and still more relevant than most “techno” released today… to making things so overproduced that I might not even notice it if I wasn’t specifically paying attention.

    The mastery they showed in creating soulful jams after the homework years was enjoyable for what it was, but I was hoping they would crawl back to their roots, not inflate it further.

    Maybe they should hang out with “Mr. Oizo” more, he seems to get it, crosses the threshold between both and has fun with it.

  • Samuele Cornell

    That were the exact same thoughts i had while reading the Pitchfork article ,
    lets put apart for a moment the new album quality ,
    its the entire concept behind it which i didn’t like very much : the recording made in ‘rarified’ studios on analog tape and this elitist anti-technology philosophy together with a sort of nostalgia of the ‘good old times’ ,
    sounds to me more like they’re trying to barricade themselves .
    Maybe they’ve lost their musical inspiration ( the optimists will say the changed the way they used to make music and the way they think music) thus the ( for me overused ) expedient of the big-name collaborators .

    …..okay this could be only envy.

  • http://www.reaktortips.com/ Peter Dines

    Perhaps I’m giving them too much credit but the whole “when everybody has the ability to make magic, it’s like there’s no more magic” angle seems crafted to provoke the exact kind of controversy that’s emerging from it. Are there trollfaces under those helmets?

  • will

    GREAT ARTICLE

  • http://www.facebook.com/Experimentaldog Chris SW Anderson

    Great insight Peter. I think a lot is lost when music is only considered to be a recorded medium from its hifi peak in the late 20th century. Much similar criticism has been made towards studio bands like Steely Dan in that they perfected their sound in studio rather than touring that sound as much. Daft Punk seem to be in Steely Dan mode. I actually hear RAM almost as a studio album by another french electronic duo… Air. Air have been doing the studio thing for years, but unlike Daft Punk, they tour as a live act. It becomes difficult to engage in musical discourse when this so called “magic” is not defined. I myself consider this “magic” to be music and audio-engineering theory. It doesn’t take much to learn a bit of music theory and I find it quite intriguing to actually know what musical devices are being used to form this “magic”. It’s like understanding the context and history behind intersting prose and poetry. Little to no theory is mentioned in any review of RAM. The music really isn’t that complex, but why should it be. It would be great if RAM wasn’t placed so high on a hype pedestal by music journalists who can’t explain in musical detail why this is or isn’t sonically ground breaking in 2013. Sorry again for the plug, I wrote a small bit on music, audio production history and technology a couple months ago. http://www.popmatters.com/pm/column/169424-production.-too-new-to-be-forgotten/

  • coldtea

    [quote]Why would any of us be so afraid of basements and underground and DIY, and so affectionate for the 70s or other decades’ mainstream, commercial, industrial music?[/quote]

    They just told you, and you seemed to have missed it: “when everybody has the ability to make magic, it’s like there’s no more magic—if the audience can just do it themselves, why are they going to bother?”

    “”"And to say that it’s a problem that anyone can make music – that seems criminal.
    The very essence of music is that anyone can make it. In every culture, in every corner of the world, in living rooms and bars and showers, people make music, and always have.”"”

    You missed the whole premise. It’s not about music in general, music the art of producing sounds etc. The might use the word “music”, but they mean something else.

    It’s about music as in pop music, the music industry, etc — e.g music as it was known in the West from 1950 to 2000 (to put a crude timing to the phenomenon).

    When “anyone can make music” you don’t lose the music as art, the music as an ancient cultural phenomenon connected with every society etc. You might even re-discover them, the way they used to be (tribe singing around the fire, etc).

    But you certainly do lose the mystique, allure and “something above us, that we unite in listening” quality of the music of the ’60′s to the 90′s, and the rock-star, samanic, “bigger-than-life” quality of the then popular musicians.

    And, with the plethora of new music (since everyone can make it) you also lose the kind of community effect, of everybody listening to the same stuff (something which was already starting to erode with New Wave, Punk etc).

    Unlike music being communal (in the consuming sense), like huge masses of teens listening to Beatles and Stones and what have you in the ’60s, music is now dispersed and broken into much more granular genres, bands and individual tastes.

    Now, of course, you might win in selection and individuality, and being simultaneously heard by many is not an essential quality of music — but it’s a quality that some of us cherished, and that has some effects in how music is perceived and consumed, and the role it plays in one’s life [e.g uniting you with your generation and the pulse of the era vs identifying you with a discrete and small subgroup].

    • just passing

      “But you certainly do lose the mystique, allure and “something above us,
      that we unite in listening” quality of the music of the ’60′s to the
      90′s, and the rock-star, samanic, “bigger-than-life” quality of the then
      popular musicians.”

      Thank the gods for that. Now if only we can figure out how to do the same for film and TV, we might actually be able to dispose of the toxic 20th century conception of “celebrity” once and for all.

    • coldtea

      Thank the gods for that.

      Sure, but that’s like your opinion, man. Other’s like that kind of thing.

      And it’s not about the “toxic 20th century conception of celebrity”. I’m not just talking about Madonna or Bieber or Lindsay Lohan, etc, here.

      It’s also about things that unite a community — as opposed to hipster like fragmentation to millions of isolated microcosms.

      The lead figure (e.g the Beatles) could be as meaningful or empty as it wants — it’s the effects of the people uniting over a common language that matter.

      Music, of course, live on. But loses its meaning for society. It’s now just a personal accessory, it doesn’t unite you with others (except some tiny clique), it merely defines your borders, like a personal accessory.

      And the end result is that music fades out. People today, including kids, could not care less for music. They consume it as short videos in Youtube, and as casual downloads. There are hardcore fans and music aficionados of course, but they are nothing of the numbers they used to be back in the day. The average teenager might more be into video games and such, than to music.

      To address another issue: yes, in older societies, in Africa for example, everybody made music AND there were no stars — but still music was uniting the community and trance dental. But at those times the music got its’ trance dental and uniting power by being folk music and connected to the religious and festive practices of the community. It was music as “a body of tradition that we use to express ourself”, and not “music as expression of the solitary individual” in the way it is on the modern West.

    • just passing

      “And it’s not about the “toxic 20th century conception of celebrity”. I’m
      not just talking about Madonna or Bieber or Lindsay Lohan, etc, here.”

      Neither am I. In your rush to be contemptuously dismissive, you seem to have overlooked your own words:

      “But you certainly do lose the mystique, allure and “something above us,
      that we unite in listening” quality of the music of the ’60′s to the
      90′s, and the rock-star, samanic [sic], “bigger-than-life” quality of the then
      popular musicians.”

      That never existed in those people themselves. It was something we, the audience, projected onto them. We elevated them above us. And in some cases it destroyed them, as they either came to believe their own publicity or found they simply couldn’t escape it, but in every case it poisoned us, by diminishing our own belief in our own creativity. Celebrity and consumerism are necessarily intertwined.

      And your little paean to the wonders of conformity under common idols here is, perhaps, more revealing than you would wish it to be. You assert – without evidence – that people no longer value music. I believe that you are profoundly wrong about this. People value music entirely too much to let it be bottled in the way you advocate. People want to be surrounded, saturated, in music, and no longer consent to live in a society in which artificial limits are placed on their enjoyment and participation. You talk of everyone fragmenting into little communities – but ironically you’re doing so on a forum that disproves your whole point! As the music itself becomes – as it always was – purely a means of individual expression, communities form around the *process* of enjoying music, whether in the creation or the appreciation. Community isn’t quite the fragile, easily-obliterated thing you want it to be. We’re social animals. Most of us are caused genuine psychological pain if denied the opportunity to communicate – and to fragment into different communities. Yes, global communication will necessarily cause a realignment of those community links, which until now have always been built upon simple geography – and yes, we’re still taking baby steps in figuring out how. It’s going to take centuries to figure out properly.

      And here you are, passing final judgement on the quality of a CD after the first second – apparently because you don’t think it’s going to be like the last CD you listened to. Right then…

  • enomis

    I find it kind of funny. To avoid the current EDM bandwagon Daft Punk invokes the late 70s mass produced mainstream disco bandwagon.

  • mazi

    I’m so glad that I never ever go to pitchfork.

  • TheNaut

    If you sit down and listen to the album, does it touch you? I think this is all that matters.

  • rgb

    I truly don’t get the whole Daft Punk thing. Every song I’ve heard is one line repeated for 4 1/2 minutes. It is as if RainMan wrote music, ‘around the world around the world. yah, definitely around the world’. Yah, definitely. One more time. Yah, One more more time. there is nothing there. And yet the music press has glommed on to them as if they were the only electronic music act around. There are so many artists doing things that aren’t just sampled from a 70′s disco record with repetitive vocal on them that get completely ignored. I personally know at least a dozen artists here in NYC that are more creative and actually do something other than press play when they perform. Daft Punk is everything that is wrong with electronic music, uninspired repetitive nonsense. If you want to hear some unique and inspired electronic music come out to a Warper Party, you will hear at least 1/2 a dozen artists who are doing more original material than DP.

    Can we please shine some light on someone other than these two?

    • anthony antfactor

      Agreed… X10^6(!)

  • Lloyd Barrett

    Fabulous post. I wonder how much of this is record industry management pressure? I’ve noticed more than a few signed bands start betraying “classic rock” influences by their second or third records. Always figured this had something to do with the influence of the millionaire baby-boomers in charge of their recording budget.

  • lazenbleep

    Kerrier District is by far the best modern disco record I have heard, really simple distillation of the ‘electronic’ disco sound. As a bonus here my girlfriend likes the DP album!

  • http://www.pegritz.com Derek C. F. Pegritz

    I think the issue here is that while technology now makes it trivial for anyone to make music, that does that mean that everyone SHOULD make music–because, quite frankly, everyone can certainly *appreciate* music, but NOT everyone has the ability to *create* music.

    You don’t need a degree in music or even the vaguest understanding of Western musical theory to create music–in fact, as an almost-graduate of a collegiate music programme, I’d say you’re better off NOT knowing all that semi-arbitrary bullshit–but you have to have an “ear” for creating music, and that goes above and beyond the ability to sync random loops and samples in Ableton Live.

    Computers have made creating music a LOT easier, but remember: a computer, just like any other instrument, takes talent, practice, and a shit-tonne of work to play WELL. Not everyone has the talent to do so.

  • Dikembe Gibraltar

    The album sounds like it’s for old people. Maybe the idea is to get more raw material for banger remixes? For a dance group, none of it seems very good for modern dance floors. I can’t see how they could tour with this. Then again, maybe they just know their audience. It seems like Daft Punk is now for middle aged rich people, record reviewers and guys who run websites.

    • http://www.facebook.com/teemu.into Teemu Into

      You obviously haven’t played Get Lucky to a dancefloor full of twentysome kids going apeshit. ;) Apeshit not as in pumping their fists in the air and looking like a football-fan, but moving their bodies to the groove and singing along to all the hooks. What’s more, my toddlers can’t get enough of it, and everytime I put it on, they dance like little monkeys. That’s the universal human reaction to groovy uplifting music for ya!

  • Jon Tesko

    Goodiepal, please destroy Pitchfork!

  • IDM thuglord junglist shitpost

    peter you killin em!

    ive taken my share of dumps on cdm articles but i always come back cause i know you got this in you

    real deal 90s darknet classwar gabbercore mentalist shit

  • http://twitter.com/ben_carey Benjamin Carey

    “The very essence of music is that anyone can make it. In every culture, in every corner of the world, in living rooms and bars and showers, people make music, and always have. The desire to stifle musical experimentation and freedom is the stuff of dictatorships, not culture” Bravo Peter, beautifully put!

  • D@rth T@ter

    Oh please, another whiny article about Daft Punk…yeh it ain’t up to snuff and they’re probably victims of their own hype, but I’ll take their hit/miss ratio anyday.

    It’s not the album i wanted but then that’s not why anyone makes music. And the very last people in the world i give a shit about is people who WRITE about music.

    Especially old farts who are caught up on “authenticity”. They can take their ukelele’s and folktronica and F off. Daft Punk are not ‘those’ guys, so don’t blame them. They just made the record they wanted to.

  • dyscode

    “When you know how a magic trick is done, it’s so depressing,” he
    explains. “We focus on the illusion because giving away how it’s done
    instantly shuts down the sense of excitement and innocence.”

    Everytime I read such a sentence I want to puke!

    If one doesn’t get sparked by knowing how something works, well they better crawl back under the rock from which they came.

    Creating is magic – not adoration

    • Pedro

      Indeed. If “knowing how something is done” shuts down the magic, let’s stop with the Maker Movement altogether, shall we? ;)

  • John Pazdan

    Outstanding essay Peter, thank you.

  • Heinrich Zwahlen

    Great article, Pitchfork really totally dropped the ball here lamenting about mindless repetition and short supply of great new music. New and more affordable technology has made it possible for everybody with talent to create something very nuanced that’s full of dynamics and sonic magic. I also would not shed a tear for a record industry that was based on unfair deals and big recording budgets. Democratisation of the means of production was only a good thing in that regard as well. The magic in music has nothing to do with whether you use a 70 piece orchestra or a laptop and creating based on a concept that it has to use old technology that is only available to a few privileged is more greared towards making music stuffy rather than breathe! And so it goes: a rather insignificant polished piece of work that has the potential of actually tarnishing Daft Punks reputation as pioneers and surrounding yourself with some real greats from that glorious era of music that truly brought out some of the greatest recorded music ain’t gonna cut it either. Moroder and Nile Rogers were the real pioneers here and they only make DP look a bit pretentious and overrated in retrospect now.

  • Klemen Kotar

    Such a big deal over Get Lucky… Electronic duo Dzihan & Kamien (now disfunct) have been doing this better (imho) for years. Just check Grand Riserva album…can’t find the songs that are really similar on Youtube but this is 100 times more exciting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMm48e2QPz0

  • np

    I respect any group who reach the lofty level of commercial success that allows them to dramatically renovate their sound and style, to the point of alienating a large portion of their fanbase (but perhaps gaining new fans too). It’s the creative prerogative of any artist. Unfortunately, I am one of those disappointed by this experiment (if that is what it is). Tres meh.

  • glomag

    Excellent article, Peter. As for why you are still excited about the mystery of electronic music and they are not, it’s not hard to imagine that it could be their lifestyle. :)

  • adam

    Great article! You can tell by the amount of great comments after! DP can’t keep up with the new music. Oh well. Boo Hoo! They are experiencing what all artists have gone through throughout the history of Art. Ask Elvis, or Sir Paul, or Moroder for that matter. It ain’t easy getting older and no longer cutting edge. Like the song by LCD SS. Rock on!

  • raspcktotehmusiqmkrs

    seems a lot of this commentary is either grumpy or jealous. i loved this album but don’t care for all the semantics. complaining about hype/marketing and nostalgia vs progression you’re really just feeding the beast. stay blind to all that, if you want to hear the new daft punk album go buy it at the record store and leave it at that . speaks for itself …

  • micj

    If it’s a trick, it’s not magic. But if you know how it’s done and it still grabs you, now that’s something.

    Thanks Peter for your essay.

  • Aaron

    I understand the hating on Pitchfork.. everyone does, but Daft Punk are far above their drivel and you shouldn’t lump them in with it. So now you’re using CD as your personal stump for ranting against popular acts you don’t think are cool anymore?
    It’s not like Daft Punk stepping out of their normal game into something different is new. Neither is their uber-polished sound. They have always, since Homework, had a mix of raw tracks and highly polished tracks. It’s half the charm.
    And yes, its just pure hate game to go on a rant about someone who decided for a change to do the music with the people that inspire them (now that they can afford it, good for them) as opposed to mimic’ing or sampling it and running it through the grinder. It’s not like they’re even close to being the first electronic act to do this.
    Hell, you should do everyone a real favor and hate on Deadmouse and Skrillex instead… rather than quoting Deadmouse’s tired line of “We just push play”.. which wasn’t a fresh quote when he said it and wasn’t a fresh quote for 10 years.
    At least the guys are doing something creative rather than cockrock BS and hanging out with heroin dropouts and burnt out coke head rock stars… or even worse, paying classic musicians to show up and then doing absolutely nothing with them (skrillex:doors).
    If the music wasn’t creative, and Daft Punk were douche-nozzles like all the other superstar DJs in the world.. I’d be with you, but you’ve chosen to rant on the one large techno act that is actually tolerable and has a real creative streak.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      You read the article, or just guessed at what the article said?

      Because I was very clear to separate what Pitchfork said from what Daft Punk said. And some of this is stuff Daft Punk said, repeatedly, while doing interviews.

      The question wasn’t whether they were cool any more or not – the question was concern about the way the press were reporting on this record, and the things that Daft Punk themselves said about the nature of technology in music making that I disagree with, fundamentally.

      And the nature of technology in music making is sort of … well, the *title* of this site.

      Another quote – Bangalter, to Billboard:
      “We really felt that the computers are not really music instruments …

      The problem with the way to make music today, these are turnkey systems; they come with preset banks and sounds. They’re not inviting you to challenge the systems themselves, or giving you the ability to showcase your personality, individuality.”

      Yes, if a famous band decides to go on a press tour where they challenge the fundamental assumption that is the reason for this site, I will tend to respond. Not because I take it personally – because it falls squarely, dead center, into the mission of the site, and to do otherwise would mean I wasn’t doing my job.

  • Aaron

    Also.. in terms of the press – as electronic music fans, we should be so LUCKY that any act that plays outside the lines like DP is remotely popular or mainstream. If Daft Punk are the stewards for that this summer for all those that typically have no exposure to it – then great.
    I would’ve hated to see you in the 90s when groups like Depeche Mode were getting all the hype.

  • Lets Start A War Said Maggie

    never liked Daft Punk at all, ever since back in 01 or whenever – in fact, i have always specifically DISliked them … actually, the helmets are cool – i will give them that

    i remember reading an article about their first album fairly soon after it came out, where it was describing how it was being played as background musak in lots of McDonalds over in France… i was thinking “sounds about right”.. and of course, it still does

    of course, there is no accounting for taste, so whatever floats your boat… plenty of people seem to like Justin Beiber

  • Joe Gore

    Well, done, Peter. Great essay!

  • RobbieRowboat

    I think there are three driving forces with the new album – 1) They wanted to make a pop record – a go completely next level – 2) They got caught using so many samples that really they had to do something – 3) They are real studio experimenters and they tried something they had never done before and something that very very few musicians these days are able to do. That it is a success is a testament to their professionalism. Is it a good album? It is a hugely successful album that has opened them up to entirely new market groups world wide. Do I like it? It’s okay… but I am a music weirdo.

  • Svantana

    Hilarious quote from Bangalter about mindless repetition, considering he is behind some of the most mindbendingly repetitious music in history, for example this 10-minute diddy repeating the line “I’ve got so much love to give” until your ears fall off: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7Gg0RdEWQk

  • Tommy Preger

    Oh, do I love your blog? Yes! Great article. For even more sneering towards the digital democratization of music production and tiresome endorsement of the authenticity of music, tape recording and “real musicians”: watch Dave Grohls entertaining but at times staggeringly condescending documentary Sound City.

  • Robin Parmar

    Daft Punk make boring fascistic music for boring folk who want only a functional experience from sound. If they want magic, illusion, and humanity, they are really looking in the wrong places. They should drop by mine sometime.

  • IMHO

    You know the truth is that there are many people within the electronic music community who rail against originality and the very notion of authenticity. From fake dis to fake musicians to fake artist this part of the electronic community hates for anyone to hold electronic music artist to any accountability of integrity based on anything that even comes close to skill, earnestness, or originality, they are quick to tell you that a skill set does not matter and that what is important is the fact that kid in the crowd on drugs waving his glostick is all that matters, well that and record selection they’re still willing to promote that mind boggling skill of choosing a record and reading a crowd.

    Here is the crux and here is the proof that these people have no credibility.

    1. All things being equal, how can you say in honesty that selecting a record and reading a crowd are 2 skills that have value but the other skills of the so called ‘real djs’ have no value? ….. That’s an oxy moron and leaves you talking out of both sides of your mouth at the same time.

    2. So you claim electronic music does not need real ness, authenticity, originality or anything pertaining to such an ethos, then tell us do you feel the same way about movies, do you feel the same way about paintings, even about something as simple as food? In other words do you live your entire life this way or is it only within the confines of the electronic music that you make that you disregard the meaning and value of authenticity??

    I’m seriously asking because I call bullshit and I think you’re just giving yourself and your own music a pass, I don’t believe you live that way in your daily work lives or when it comes to anything else…… So then why obfuscate about authenticity only when it applies to electronic music.

  • Mark Kunoff

    Nostalgia. Exactly, Peter. There’s nothing even remotely innovative in attempting to recapture the magic of disco at this point.

    Daft Punk certainly should be credited for bringing EDM to the festival masses. And the new CD is good for sure, but it certainly did NOT live up to the hype. Depeche Mode’s new album however is completely deserving of hype and praise, which it did not receive.

  • Matthew Topartzer

    excellent article. . . . excellent analysis. . . . and so i take this opportunity to promote music that i made that “anyone can make”. . . . on a laptop no less. . . . http://luckychickenaudio.bandcamp.com/album/locked-groove-romance

  • afhtown

    The issue is they aren’t really good enough songwriters to pull this off. (and i say this as a fan!) Maybe if they’d made a Daft Punk remix-y album out of all the quality recorded bits and pieces on the record it would have worked. But you don’t leap from their cut-and-paste skillset to the kind of Becker/Fagen skills needed to get the best out of the creme de la creme of session musicians just by being “bored” of laptops. If that were the case I’d have just recorded another Doobie Brothers’ album myself ;-)

  • kiobame