Daft Punk are tailor made for the trendy press to drool over. The irony is that once this album becomes public property, pumped into the media by Virgin's hype machine, they may no longer be cool. Perhaps da Punks were only ever cool whilst their previously available releases served to excite those 'in the know'. But such is the nature of so many travellers from 'underground' to the potentially commercial 'surface'.
There's no doubting the skill with which Bangalter and Christo cut from popular innovation ('da Funk') to pure Disco ('Around The World'). They artfully play the irony game to it's maximum potential, exploiting Chic bass lines, post-Clinton computer funk and Acid/House history along the way. Not forgetting their own past as a dodgy Euro Rock duo who, in true Beastie fashion, gleefully refer back to such mid-70s Rock gods as Kiss, Frampton and, of course, Led Zep. The inner (gatefold) sleeve photo is so knowingly Pop in a way that real history seldom was. It represents the perfectly contrived schoolboy's desk, complete with homework book, Playboy, a Marvel comic, portable record player holding an Atlantic 7-inch, transistor radio and so on. Like so many of us approaching the new millennium (or simply a certain age) Daft Punk are determined to rewrite history in their own perfect image. Even the cover takes the shape of a sew-on patch! (Ask your parents).
I've a tentative theory that Daft Punk could have made an album's-worth of material to match 'Musique', but such is their determination to recycle '70s Pop Culture that they deliberately included such nonsense as 'Around The World' and 'Fresh'. These are the naff tracks, the one's you have to skip, just like the ballads on Funk albums of old. Either that or they simply didn't have enough good material. But, damn, they caught me out. I'm seeing Daft Punk as some cutting-edge creators of avant-techno-pop, rather than fun-lovin' French guys whom the inevitable progress of Euro Dance has delivered as a historical necessity. It's true, if they had not existed, someone would have invented them.
There are, however, at least seven good reasons to buy 'Homework'. Unless you're an ardent follower who has the older tracks, in the catching up stakes, the best of Daft Punk is more or less all here (except 'Musique', an imminent single and remixes of other artists such as Ian Pooley and Chemical Brothers). Whilst mentioning the Bros, accepting that comparisons aren't totally fair, it has to be said that Daft Punk make them redundant, instantly, rendering them dinosaurs of dance. That said, and perhaps for that very reason, Virgin execs hoping that they've signed the next big Dance/Indie crossover act may be proved wrong. We'll see. Meanwhile, 'Da Funk', 'Indo Silver Club' and, from '94, 'Alive', are post-Acid classics, displaying the immediacy and disposable innovation that re the Punks trademark. And of the new stuff, 'Phoenix' is perfectly pitched between cheesy House for happy wedding receptions and the art of deconstructing modern minimalism. Ditto 'High Fidelity'. But the ultimate fun comes from 'Rock'n'Roll' and 'Burnin'. The former is truly Gary Glitter rewritten for the Prodigy generation. 'Burnin', though, is a tour de force in which a disco bass line bubbles under brain-lashing synth.
Daft Punk's playfulness reminds listeners that their spiritual home lies more in the exploits of the KLF, perhaps, than Kraftwerk. Perhaps a 'Respect to' list which places Mad Mike next to Mark Bolan says it all. Whether they last longer than the next fifteen minutes remains to be seen, but for now, Daft Punk are no more or less than tres chic.
Robin Tomens. 7.1.97