Daft Punk: Discovery

In addition to almost single-handedly jump-starting the French house revival, Daft Punk's classic 1996 debut Homework earned the enigmatically faceless duo of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo considerable fame, which was unusual for such blatantly backwards-looking disco worshippers. Since fashion can be a large part of dance music, a five-year gap between albums seems risky, and while Discovery's lead track ("One More Time") sounds immediately familiar, with the thump-thump groove of house and the requisite vocodered vocals up front, something appears amiss in the land of Daft Punk. "Digital Love," "Too Long," and "Superheroes" sound so resolutely retro that they often fall prey to the pitfalls that felled disco—namely, banal hedonism at the expense of emotional resonance. Though it's nice that Daft Punk decided to sprinkle the disc with some slow jams, it didn't have to make "Nightvision" and "Something About Us" sound like '80s quiet-storm rejects. While Discovery embraces the cheesiness of the lamest of lame music, the strategy frequently comes across as gimmickry. The album isn't so much fun as it is silly, and while Daft Punk's members may just be musical smart-alecks, funk hasn't sounded this resoundingly stupid since Bootsy Collins' squiggly solo work. Meanwhile, French house favorite Mirwais Ahmadzaï, the latest pretender to Daft Punk's throne, couldn't enjoy a higher profile, having just worked on Madonna's Music. Yet his debut disc Production squanders the fleeting opportunity of his associated fame. What could have been a huge breakthrough instead sounds staid, as if he were so used to rocking the house that he didn't want to risk rocking the boat. Though more diverse than that of Daft Punk, Mirwais' production plays it far too safe, relying on spacey echoes and even more vocoders to spice up the half-baked electro and soulless beats of "I Can't Wait" and "Definitive Beat." The album only perks up when Mirwais gets weird: The acid-house hooks of "Disco Science" and the subtle synth-pop of "Naïve Song" and "Never Young Again" put him on par with progressive peers such as Armand Van Helden and Basement Jaxx. Elsewhere, the reprise of Madonna's trippy "Paradise (Not For Me)" almost overwhelms the disc with her star power and personality. At their best, these aimless but slightly more ambitious songs reveal that Mirwais may have more in mind than just moving the masses. But Production seems so set on that goal that it lacks any spark of real inspiration.

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