I just learned by accident, that one of my favourite albums is now pretty much exactly 15 years old. Daft Punk’s DISCOVERY! I don’t have to tell most of you how great this piece of music is, but I will do so anyway.
2001, the year it came out, was an interesting time for me. I was almost out of school, but still had no idea what to do next. (I decided to go to school for a few more years, which didn’t really turn out as I hoped for, but that’s a different topic.) I’ve already been a huge fan of electronic music and slowly started by the end of the 90s to move away from the cheesy but fun Eurodance of my youth, to more credible sounds. And of course Daft Punk’s first album HOMEWORK played a huge part in that evolution. This and the catchiness of the first new single ONE MORE TIME, made me immediately buy DISCOVERY on that snowy Monday morning. (I also bought STARFOX 64, which was on sale.)
It wasn’t until later that I found out, that many fans downright hated ONE MORE TIME, because of how poppy and radio oriented it was. But fuck those people. I wish every dance pop single would be as well and cleverly produced like ONE MORE TIME. All in all was DISCOVERY a pretty controversial album among fans. And to a degree it still is, although the majority seems to lean towards the “masterpiece“ side of opinion. And actually every album after HOMEWORK was somehow controversial. HUMAN AFTER ALL got lots of hate for its dirty in your face Techno sounds, the TRON soundtrack got criticized for being a movie soundtrack and RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY wasn’t electronic enough for many. (Not to mention that its commercial success made them look like sell-outs, although Daft Punk were already a part of the mainstream, since MTV played the videos for DA FUNK and AROUND THE WORLD all day long.)
Yes, DISCOVERY was Daft Punk’s try of a pop album. It was definitely done for artistic and not commercial reasons and it still had some more housey and experimental tracks on it, like the e-guitar heavy AERODYNAMIC or the later sampled by Kanye West HARDER, BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER. But most tracks were real dance pop songs. Including a ballad named DIGITAL LOVE, which had lyrics that were written by the Original House Grump DJ Sneak (who ironically hates everything digital in the DJ booth, even though the song is of course not about controllerism and DJ software). But like I said before, each of the tracks was just brillantly produced, using samples and vocoder sounds in unique ways.
It was also the time when Daft Punk premiered their robot disguise. In a time where gimmicks like that seem like an automatic ticket to fame, many people forgot how unique something like this was, although they were of course not the first musicians to hide behind masks and crazy stage outfits. But most of all, they did it right! They already made themself a household name and THEN started the gimmick. Not to mention that they weren’t rubbing it in our faces. They didn’t even appear in any videos for DISCOVERY. In fact, all videos were another art project of them. The anime INTER5TELLAR 5555, which was basically a music video to every track from the album. And put together, it told the story of a band from another planet, that got abducted, brainwashed and turned into a pop sensation.
DISCOVERY still holds up and sounds fresh 15 years later. I would say that today is a good day to listen to it again, but honestly, every day is a good day for that. Happy Birthday and thanks for the many times, when you made my days better.