If you were going to build a durably influential chart-topping musical act in a lab, chances are good your main ingredients wouldn’t be a couple of French guys playing synthesizers in robot helmets. And yet there’s Daft Punk. Who actually did kind of seem like someone might have built them in a lab.
To the uninitiated, “daft punk” sounds like an insult you might hear someone hurl on season 3 of The Crown. But in fact, Daft Punk was a pair of Parisian musicians who began turning their love of Chicago house music into their own idiosyncratic dance tracks almost thirty years ago. (And, in fact, the group’s name did derive from an insult: a critic dismissed the pair’s previous music as a “daft punky thrash.”) It was a steady build, but eventually the faceless pair went from European clubs to Coachella to working with Pharrell and the Weeknd to getting sampled by Kanye to designing Coca-Cola bottles for some reason. Plus, they won six Grammys. Not bad for a couple of guys who dress like futuristic household appliances.
On February 22, Daft Punk announced they were splitting up. Given that they hadn’t performed in almost four years at that point, the announcement was an attention-grabbing answer to a question nobody asked. But the news – which came in the form of a YouTube video in which the two meet wordlessly in a desert and one of them blows up – stayed on-brand by conveying very little actual intelligible information.
If you don’t think you’ve heard Daft Punk before, you’re probably mistaken. Tracks like “One More Time,” “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” and “Get Lucky” have almost certainly wormed their way into your consciousness at some point, and the band indelibly influenced the pop and dance music you hear today. Not everyone loved Daft Punk; some accused them of building their success on music thieved without attribution from previous musicians. To which Daft Punk would probably respond: Talk to the helmet.
If you want to learn more about Daft Punk – their origins, their influences, where they get their outfits simonized – then, as always, the library has books for that, including a children’s book in case your six-year-old has questions about fusing funk with techno.
But as with any musicians, probably the best way to get acquainted with them is through their music. If you want to jump right into their biggest hits, you might want to start with Discovery, Human After All, and Random Access Memories. In addition to the CDs and hoopla downloads listed below, you can also find Random Access Memories through the library’s subscription to Freegal.
But personally, I don’t know if I ever enjoyed any of Daft Punk’s music as much as I enjoy the two songs that name-check the band on LCD Soundsystem’s self-titled debut album, the most famous of which is “Daft Punk is Playing at My House.”
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