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Following the sweeping success of Discovery, Daft Punk dedicated six weeks to writing the musical material for their next album, Human After All, which was released in March 2005. Probably not a single music critic missed the opportunity to reproach the duo for releasing a rushed-up, raw sounding product, but I somehow suspect that by 2005 Daft Punk already knew what they were doing. They knew it even before 2005, in fact. Strategically, the last thing Daft Punk wanted to do was to release another Discovery and be accused of betraying themselves or selling out. Thus, being on the verge of becoming pop personalities, the Dafts played by their own rules by releasing Human After All and Electroma. Artists don't like repeating themselves. Producers do. [Watch Interstella 5555 for reference.]
When I listened to Human After All for the first time, it did sound a bit chaotic and too brutal and rough. Now, looking at the album's tracklist:
1. Human After All
2. The Prime Time of Your Life
3. Robot Rock
4. Steam Machine
5. Make Love
6. The Brainwasher
8. Television Rules the Nation
... I cannot actually name any track that I could call bad. I am sure though that all the great expectations related to this album came from Robot Rock, a track which stands out as more traditionally daft-punkish, but in the end turns out to be an organic part of the Human After All sound. And the sound definitely brings us to Electroma and its world populated by "robots". I haven't tested the theory about the album being synchronised with the film and acting as a secret soundtrack, but I am absolutely sure Electroma and Human After all are two parts of one concept. In fact, I wouldn't even view Human After All as a music album in the traditional sense. It is more like expression of views and ideas with the help of music. I wouldn't call it a proper study of human nature or the state of global society. The study, obviously, happened in Thomas' and Guy's minds and we received a conclusion wrapped in the musical form (and in the visual form of Electroma). Thus, we have to do our own study maybe using the album as a calatyst. If Human After All was turned into an electronic musical (like Discovery), it would've been a big advantage for it. I believe the video for Technologic proves it well: I almost ignored this track until I saw the visual presentation of it.
To me, one of the most peculiar tracks on this album is The Prime Time of Your Life. The encouraging mood of it is a paradox: at some point you understand that you perceive your life in those categories imposed by the television and what you call your life is all brands and lifestyles pre-selected by magazine and TV editors. I am surprised that so many people complain about the repetitive nature of Human After All, but go and watch the uncountable variations of the same movie every weekend in the cinema or follow the same characters in talent/reality shows and soaps.
P.S. Interesting fact: Having watched the video for The Prime Time of Your Life, I noticed the recurrent skeleton-on-TV theme in Daft Punk's videos. First there were skeletons in Around the World (parodying cartoons), then a skeleton perfomer in Starlight (which was the result of collaboration between Daft Punk and The Superman Lovers, AFAIK). Now The Prime Time.
NB: This review is mirrored in my blog at www.artymind.com
Daft Punk - Human After All (2005)
Producer: Daft Punk, Cédric Hervet, Gildas Loaëc
Human After All
The Prime Time of Your Life
Television Rules the Nation
Released in 2005, Human After All is the third album by French electronica group Daft Punk. After two very well received albums - the unforgettable house music of their first record, Homework, and the blissful disco-esque synth-pop of their second, Discovery - it would have appeared that Daft Punk could have turned their deft hand to absolutely anything they wanted to on their third.
But this magnificent journey that Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter had been taking us on was unfortunately about to take a wrong turn, in the sorry form of Human After All. The warning signs were all there - a four long wait between albums to only dedicate a reported six weeks of recording time to Human After All, and Bangalter going on record as saying that they were deliberately trying to achieve a more stripped back and less lavish recording than Discovery - but if only we had taken heed, then the wretched disappointment that followed could have been easily avoided.
The disgraceful monotony of the album wastes no time in introducing itself via the crudely written title-track. "We are human, after all", sing Daft Punk, admitting to being mere mortals in their professional field, from the very beginning. This melancholy intonation of simply being 'human, after all' seems to set the entire album up to fail. This is swiftly followed by the four minute pillaging of your senses that is The Prime Time of Your Life, which will soon come to be known as yet another track to make you wince in disgust.
The main focal point of the album is first single and third track Robot Rock, which is nigh-upon a five minute loop of the greatest riff you have ever heard in your entire life. Excellent! Perhaps things are starting to look up... but then my disappointment came upon learning that the riff was sampled from a little-known funk band named Breakwater (in the style of Funkadelic), from their song Release the Beast. So, what's my problem, electronica/dance acts sample all the time, right?! True, there is nothing wrong with taking an element from another musician's work and expanding upon it, but I am yet to hear such a shameless rip off as Robot Rock, which is simply stealing somebody else's idea and then claiming all the praise for yourself. This is plagiarism, folks, and it makes me mad. What affirms this is that what should have been Human After All's saving grace is in fact Daft Punk's artistic nadir.
Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
The mellow and melodious Make Love meets us halfway through the tracklisting, providing a comedown from all the high-energy nonsense. Almost hypnotic in its rich reverberations, and at times tranquil and bringing on a sense of self-security, Make Love perhaps is the aural embodiment of the act its namesake reaches out for. And for this brief moment, Daft Punk successfully reclaims the glory that was prematurely lost.
Likewise, Television Rules the Nation hints at the best moments from their past records, while paying respects to one of their musical influences - a Gary Numan-esque riff strides into the foreground and is as menacing as it is alluring, a la The Pleasure Principle. Ever since the track Teachers from 1997's Homework, Daft Punk has not been shy to pay respects where they were due. I can only assume it was a mistake not to mention Breakwater, though.
Technologic does its best to bring the 'cool' back to the Punk. "Buy it, use it, break it, fix it, trash it, change it, mail - upgrade it!" And for the first couple of minutes I'm sold on the idea, but then the unnecessary repetition sets in, which seems to plague so many of the album's best ideas. Soon after, the album ends with the ear-piercingly horrid synths of Emotion, and I remember just why it is that I hate Human After All: the whole affair is a farce, a con. From a band that once were pioneers in their field, not a single note rings true.
For all Daft Punk's efforts upon release to try and sell to us that Human After All is an essential exploration of human emotions, we ended up with a strangely cold and robotic album. Something is amiss when you're declaring that you've touched upon strong emotions with your music, while writing songs named Robot Rock, Television Rules the Nation and Technologic. Perhaps Daft Punk were just as confused as we were by this aural disarray.
Seemingly, the songs translated better to the live circuit and Daft Punk delivered one of the all time great live albums in the shape of Alive 2007. Still, all is not forgiven, and the 2010 Tron soundtrack aside, it has been six long years and we are still yet to have an album of new material from Daft Punk.
But if they return with another pile of raw silage equal to Human After All, I'm out, neon lights, robot costumes and all.
*Did You Know?* Volume: II
The Busta Rhymes song Touch It samples from the track Technologic
I'll just say it straight away, i love this album.
Many people dislike it for its repetetiveness, and cite the fact that Daft Punk created in in only a few weeks. I think both of these points add to the uniqueness of it.
After the Disco dancefloor fillers of Discovery, this is a massive change in direction for the Robot duo. Its harder and darker than their previous work, but its all the better for it.
THe album starts with Human After All. A fantastic opener with a heavy beat, guitars and lots of vocoders. Much of the album follows in this pattern. Robot Rock borrows heavily from 'Breakwater - Release the Beast', The Brainwasher is - without a doubt - Daft Punk's darkest track, but sounds stunning turned up loud.
Which brings me to another point, the audio quality and production on this album is fantastic.
Much of these tracks are used on their recent live album, Alive 2007, where they take on a different guise and come into their own. Some of them almost new tracks played live. Human After All is where these tracks came from and everyone should hear these.
Only a couple of down points really. On/Off is not really a track at all, just the sounds of someone flicking through TV channels, and Emotion just seems to drag on and on, and on, and on....
The rest of the album, though, is brilliant. Im not embarrased to say i like alot of it more than Daft Punks other stuff - this coming from one of the biggest Daft Punk fans on the planet!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Human After All
2 The Prime Time of Your Life
3 Robot Rock
4 Steam Machine
5 Make Love
6 The Brainwasher
8 Television Rules The Nation