By Daniel Paiz
To be despondent upon hearing that world-famous French House duo Daft Punk has decided to retire from music is incredibly selfish, foolish even. The amount of musical infatuation with Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter’s robots will likely not subside for some time. It’s funny, really. The French musical duo has managed to avoid all of the pitfalls of fame, ego, and even time.
Choosing when to step away from what they have created is something rarely done. Normally it’s a slow decline fueled by an artist’s unwillingness to let go, mixed with fans refusing to accept the truth due to nostalgia-rimmed glasses. He said she said interviews galore, with media all over the place. With these two it was the opposite; interviews were harder to find than a Golden Ticket on the lost isle of Atlantis. Public appearances were rare, let alone musical shows; their pyramid stage was one for the ages. Another sign of how they chose what they were going to do.
This is one of those rare endings every artist would probably enjoy in hindsight. It’s not easy to accomplish. However, Homem-Christo and Bangalter figured it out. This feels like a eulogy, but thankfully both artists are still with us today, along with all of their otherworldly tunes.
Before Silence, there was Life
In what seems to be the natural translation for electronic artists, Homem-Christo and Bangalter started out as Rock musicians. A couple of shows and a few songs led to a music reviewer citing them as “daft punky thrash.” The name stuck as the rockers focused on synthesizers and drum machines, and their legendary career began in the world of electronic music.
Each project from Daft Punk feels so different than its predecessor. Play the opening track of Homework (1997) and then listen to its counterpart on Discovery (2001). Artists tend to figure out after a handful of albums that they need to try out new sounds and tackle a new musical direction. Sometimes, those bands do it to survive. These two did it from the start of their careers and never stopped changing musical directions. It’s risky but only if you’re worried about the financial side of things. If creating and figuring out what you can do is your goal, then you might just be on the same path these two self-identified robots were.
Human After All seemed to be one of their only missteps, and it was a minor one with mixed reviews. Tours were not a focal point for the group. Proof of that is a little while after this album they had their biggest US tour to date: eight shows. At this point the duo was approaching the ten year anniversary of their Alive 1997 live recording of a UK show. This is another decision the group seemingly made throughout their career: touring ideas instead of albums.
The most sought after shows were anything Alive-related. Instead of touring their 2005 album the focus stayed with Alive 2007. Their concerts over this two-year run were the first and last time fans would see Daft Punk tour so much. TRON: Legacy was not toured. Random Access Memories, their unknown at the time final album, had zero tour dates. Keep in mind this album won these two a total of four Grammys in one night.
For Album of the Year, they won out over Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Sara Bareilles. Two of those acts are considered to likely be true greats in their respective fields. The two robots appreciated every award sent their way, but continued to defer to their collaborators to speak for their acceptance speeches. That’s something extremely rare. You and I didn’t know this would be the last album, or one of the last performances we’d ever see from them. But it would not be surprising in the future to find out that this night was the final straw on the proverbial camel’s back.
Daft Punk continues to leave a mark (separately)
When thinking about the robotic duo’s musical chops on display with other artists, a few songs immediately come to mind. Kanye West’s Stronger, The Weeknd’s Starboy and I Feel It Coming all pop up first. Go back a decade to check out the TRON: Legacy Reconfigured remix album where a who’s who from the electronic world in 2011 remixed their film soundtrack. But their musical endeavors haven’t ended simply because the helmets are on their respective mantles, collecting (star)dust.
If you are a fan of Arcade Fire or Matthieu Chedid then you’ve heard what Thomas Bangalter is up to. If The Weeknd or Charlotte Gainsbourg is more your style, then Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo is who you’re hearing. Anguish and intrigue are what come to mind when hearing these newer pieces of music; thankfully it’s mostly the former and not the latter.
It is said that doing the same thing over and over is the definition of insane. It’s a weird thought because to become skilled at your discipline that’s also the definition of practice. It is going to take practice getting used to a musical world where Daft Punk are a band that was but no longer is. Despite the finality of the Epilogue video release (below) on Feb. 22, 2021, it doesn’t mean you can’t jam out to these two just One More Time.