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Daft Punk, No Future

By Marc Zisman |

Their last studio album was released in 2013 and many were waiting for their comeback. But Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo decided otherwise, putting an unexpected end to the Daft Punk saga ...

Nobody could have predicted the sudden split of Daft Punk, which was made official on 22nd February 2021 by the simple posting of a 7 minute youtube video. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo actually used images from their 2006 film, Electrorama, to announce the end of their duo, launched in 1993. Almost three decades for only four studio albums but an unparalleled influence and impact on the music of the late 20th and early 21st century.

But how did two young Parisians become the kings of the electro world, and impose their own sound? It all started with their short lived career in the band Darlin'. This teenage fad alongside Laurent Brancowitz, future member of Phoenix, would at least have allowed Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo to find their name. Legend has it that the English weekly Melody Maker described the trio's music at the time as "daft punk", or "dumb punk". The Parisians took a different direction in 1993, releasing their first acid house single on the English label Soma. Then came the track that would attract the attention of the whole techno planet: the hit Da Funk, accompanied by the famous video clip of the man with a dog's head, directed by Spike Jonze. The name Daft Punk was now on everyone's minds!

In 1997, the release of their first album, Homework, on Virgin was a bombshell. A clever mix of saturated techno and filtered house filled with disco/funk samples, it quickly succumbed to the public's approval. The critics rave about this combination of new influences, and hoisted the Parisian duo as the spearhead of the very fashionable French Touch... As their notoriety grew, Thomas and Guy-Man chose to hide their identity and adopted a look of retro-futuristic robots. A desire to bring their music to the forefront,privay protection or snobbery? Whatever their intentions, a real myth was born around Daft Punk, reinforced by the expectation that preceded their second album, Discovery.

Released in 2001, it constitutes an eighties pop turn for Daft Punk, marked by the massive use of the vocoder and talk box. All the tracks would be used as the soundtrack for a manga, Interstella 5555, directed by the creator of Albator. An experience repeated the following decade for the science-fiction film Tron: Legacy. After Human After All, the third album released in 2005, Daft Punk followed up with the Alive 2007 tour, ten years after the first edition. The duo performed all over the world and dazzled audiences with their stage performances, playing from the top of an imposing pyramid-shaped structure.

180° turn for Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo! With their fourth album Random Access Memories, released in May 2013, Daft Punk brought to an end the era of laptop programmed electronic music and returned to the good old-fashioned way. A celebration of the beautiful sound and a magnificent ode to the legend of the recording studio perceived as a music mecca, RAM seems to have been conceived in the late seventies, with the tools and hedonism of the era when disco and Californian rock reigned supreme.

The most eclectic influences collide as if by magic: Chic, Steely Dan, Alan Parsons Project, Todd Rundgren, Pink Floyd, etc. To support the duo in its retro-futuristic approach, an impressive and eclectic cast of stars came to support it: from the disco king Giorgio Moroder (whose soundtrack to the film Midnight Express became legendary) to Nile Rodgers (guitar mastermind for the band Chic), Paul Williams (Mr Phantom of the Paradise himself!), Pharrell Williams, Todd Edwards, DJ Falcon, Gonzales, Panda Bear and Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, hard to compete with!

In the end, Random Access Memories doesn't just look in the rear-view mirror because Thomas and Guy-Man's work is well and truly rooted in its time. Between futuristic disco and UFO pop, this fourth and final Daft Punk studio album was impressive and gave a glimpse of new perspectives for a band who knew how to question themselves...

In 2016, Daft Punk would collaborate with The Weeknd on Starboy and I Feel It Coming, two titles that would propel the Canadian to the top of the charts. The following year, they produced Overnight by Australians from Parcels. And then... the end! In a way, this unexpected announcement comes after seven years of virtual silence. Why now? Tired? Did they feel like going somewhere else? So many questions, so few answers, who knows what the future holds...


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