CD Review of Human After All by Daft Punk
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Daft Punk: Human After All

Reviewed by David Medsker


our years ago, techno frogs Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, the duo who make up Daft Punk, followed their acclaimed debut Homework (1997) with Discovery, an album that was not only one of the best electronic albums ever made, but one of the best pop records ever made. As faceless, soulless electronic dance music goes, it was surprisingly warm; there were verses, choruses, guitar solos and ballads. It had songs that would appeal to fans of both Midnight Star and Yes. Never mind the club scene; Daft Punk were poised to take over the world.

That must be when the abduction took place. And since the band members are always photographed wearing robot masks, we never noticed.

Their new album, Human After All, is about as great a misnomer as any album has ever known. It sounds as if it was not only made by robots, but nasty, malicious, computer virus-infected robots out to enslave the human race and turn us into fuel for the Matrix. Few bands in history have fallen so far from one album to the next.

The leadoff title track sets the rest of the album up perfectly. Armed with four chords and one melody, it spends the next five minutes and 19 seconds repeating those chords and that melody over and over, with no deviation whatsoever. “We are human, after all / Flesh uncovered, after all.” Repeat. Repeat again. We’re left waiting for the punch line, the jump-off point where it turns into something else, anything else. It never happens.

“The Prime Time of Your Life” and “Robot Rock” are even worse offenders. The former takes about two minutes to get started, after a series of Vocoder squawks and squeals, only to turn into a drumbeat picking up speed until it vanishes into nothing. In the wrong hands, this could be used, rather effectively, as a torture device. “Robot Rock” starts off somewhat promising, letting loose with their trademark key-tar and appealing to fans of Discovery tracks like “Aerodynamic” and “Digital Love,” only to give the game away about a minute in by not changing up the song at all.

The back half of Human After All contains the album’s sole redeeming qualities. “Television Rules the Nation” is like a late ‘70s Alice Cooper track, filled with vague synthesizer-charged menace. The album’s two “ballads,” “Make Love and “Emotion,” are pretty, even if they don’t come close to earlier work like “Something About Us” or “Veridis Quo.” The standout moment is “Technologic.” Armed with a series of commands from what appears to be a small child/robot/mecha (“Buy it use it trash it fix it trash it change it melt upgrade it,” etc.), and accompanied by the bounciest beat on the album, “Technologic” is the one true moment where three or four different structures occur within the same song. That the song stands out for that reason alone is appalling.

There has to be an explanation for this. A band like Daft Punk doesn’t make a sophomore album as good as Discovery and then go straight to hell in a hand basket…do they? Maybe they’re holding out on their label, and this is just an obligatory release in order to fulfill the stipulations of their contract. That would make a lot more sense than saying that Human After All is the best they can do.

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