It had been four years since Daft Punk's first album-length foray into the world of house with "Homework", and it turned out amicably. In 2001, they made their triumphant return with "Discovery", but something was quite different. Daft Punk had gone disco! Their new album was quite a shift from their roots, but on the other hand, it was also much more accessible to mainstream music lovers, headed by their most commercially successful single to date, "One More Time". Of course, they still sampled heavily here, just as they used to; some things never change. So... did this drastic change spell disaster for that Parisian duo?
Daft Punk's sophomore album starts off with the one track of theirs that brought them worldwide popular acclaim and an official invitation to the world of mainstream music -- yep, I'm talking about One More Time. If you haven't heard this yet (and you probably have at some point), it's one of France's most beloved disco-house tracks whose lyrics have gone down in funk infamy. Although not exactly the most thought-provoking of lyrics ("One more time / We're gonna celebrate / Oh yeah, all right / Don't stop the dancing"), but the airwave vocal stylings of Romanthony cannot be forgotten. This track features some excellent filtering techniques, some "false" brass instruments (synthesized, of course), and as unusual as it is for me to say, some awesome tambourine use!
After this groovy (at least more groovy than I had previously indicated) introduction to the minds of Daft Punk, the bell tolls, and we are treated to a less frantic but still enchanting tune in Aerodynamic. This song features a great set of loud thumping beats, a smooth house-style synth playing away, and eventually even a crazy (if not slightly irritating after a while) guitar repetition to complete the ensemble. About two-thirds of the way into the track, the bells ring again, and we are treated to a more filtered and overall subtle version of the song. Nice.
And the bells rejoice one last time as we approach what I consider to be my favourite tune on the album (or perhaps in the entire Daft Punk discography). It's Digital Love, and boy, do I have some love for this track! The soft synth pads in the background add a pleasant airy atmosphere (which were actually taken from a George Duke song), but it is the bittersweet vocals (by Daft Punk themselves) that sucks me in. The lyrics tell of a dreamy romance that is dissipated by the rays of the morning sun. We all hate it when romantic dreams end that way... er, at least I do. Er...*cough* anyway, the vocals are not the only enticing aspect -- there's also the absolutely wicked (but not necessarily real) guitar solo in the second half -- it certainly kicks the buttocks of many other classic rock guitar solos out there. Move over, Slash -- 'da Punk's in da house!! Overall, the best track on the record, and a must-listen.
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger is another commonly-heard Daft Punk track, as it has already been used in several commercials. Although there's nothing particularly spectacular about it, it is important to note how they have used their talkbox vocals for the main melody in the second-half of the track. This is certainly worth hearing at least once, just to show perhaps how modern technology is much more flexible than the human voice.
As the fourth track descends into silence, the first chapter of this album has come to a close. From the disco funk, we travel to the "hands-up" portion. It starts out with Crescendolls, the first of three upbeat (yet repetitive) party tracks. The song kind of has a 70s style disco funk to it, sounding similar to something that might have been done by The Gap Band or something (save for the more modern beats...and the fact that it is indeed a repetitive track). In the background, there's a happy crowd shouting "Weeee!" and "Woooo!" at regular intervals. That's super.
But we must be reminded that we can't party all the time -- and Nightvision aims to prove that. This ambient "halfway" track calms us down before we are brought back up to speed with the next track. Yet it will likely be skipped over by even the more fanatical of Daft Punk fans, because this really breaks the flow of the album. Perhaps it is this side of Daft Punk that is the real "discovery"...
Drumroll please! Look out! It's Superhoeroes! With a sampling of Barry Manilow informing us to put our hands in the air (thus making him cool again), this track will get your party wired! It has a sort of retro-synth feel to it (including the very smooth ending), and we are even treated to some lasery pop noises too! Aren't we spoiled? Yes. Yes, we are. Yet there is an old saying about "too much of a good thing", and that's exactly what we get with the next track, High Life, which just sounds too much like the previous two party tracks. In fact, it's also the least lovable of the hands-up trio. I mean, sure, it has a different vocal snippet (yeah, some girl saying "Baaa! Boom!" over and over and over again) and some nice organs playing in the background... but still, it's not enough variety to differentiate this track from the previous ones of the same vibe. I'm just not feeling it, Punk!
Thankfully, we get a nice little change from all that crazy jazz with Something About Us, which was also featured as a unique single as the love theme from "Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem", an anime film that employs the entire "Discovery" tracklist as its soundtrack. This is actually a very quaint downtempo tune with sultry but melancholy lyrics (sung by one of the fellows in the band) about how he feels that he belongs with a certain girl. Can you feel the love? I can. "Something About Us" boasts solid bass and a filtered synth-guitar after the vocals are gone which delivers the emotional tone. It was only when I listened closely for the sake of this review that I truly appreciated this song; I recommend listening to it very carefully, just to fully understand it. It's a beautiful track overall, showing the depth of Daft Punk's composition abilities.
Voyager is a pretty standard song, not sticking out by any means. It's a nice funky house tune, but with gruffer bass than usual. Later on, we are treated to an angelic harp instrument as well, perhaps leading me to believe this this "voyager" is an angel in disguise! Oh boy. However, it is Verdis Quo that steals the show. While it is a very simplistic organ composition, you just can't stop listening for that whole five-point-five minutes! Soon after it begins a nice beat kicks in the track moves full force! This is also one of my favourite tracks on the album.
Another average track, Short Circuit, doesn't bring a lot of new ideas to the table but it DOES add a different flavour. The sole charm of this song lies in the second half, where it sounds as though your music player really IS short-circuiting, as the track sounds as though it's really slowing down and the battery's wearing out! But besides this gimmick, it's a regular Daft Punk track on the album. Next up is Face to Face, which brings forth the vocal stylings of Todd Edwards. Again, it's another average house track mixed together with unusual glitchy vocal samples, interspersed between bouts of uninterrupted lyrics about... um... well, I assume it's about a guy who was too demanding to his girlfriend and then she left him. I hate when lyrics are too vague!
Then, we arrive at the grand finale of the album. The track is called Too Long, and indeed, raking in ten minutes of your time, it really IS too long. Bringing back the smooth stylings of Romanthony, this lengthy tune is, in fact, rather addictive once you get into it. Granted, it's even more repetitive than "One More Time" (and bears a similar sound), but it will probably get a dance crowd's toes tapping like mad by the time this track reaches its apex of glory. The lyrics are rather empty with meaning, but they're just here to make you want to dance! Alongside a subtle bass that doesn't demand too much attention and thumping kick, we discover that it's been "too long (can you feel it?)" -- I suppose some sort of weight's been lifted off of Romanthony's shoulders (he's found more work, perhaps?) and now he can just croon the night away, stress-free! Much later in the track, just when you think the funkiest parts are gone (at about the 6:10 mark), in comes an even greater force where he repeats "You know you need it (Hey!) / I need it too (Well, alright!) / You know you need it / It's good for you (We're gonna move!)" during one of the most danceworthy moments of this song until the fadeout, after which you can cool down and take a nap in a nice hammock.
"Discovery" was definitely a successful album, both commercially and for the artists themselves who proved that they could branch out into other realms of house music and still produce music that could be lauded as high-quality and club-worthy material. It may have been cheesier overall, but that didn't prevent anyone from shuffling to the beat. It certainly made ME shuffle...
As a side note, many versions of the album came with a special Daft Club membership card that allowed you to visit online for bonus audio materials (specifically, remixes of Daft Punk tracks). The membership cards are all expired now, but you can still hear the remixes on the "Daft Club" album. (Do I recommend getting that too? Ummm....)