Okay let me make somewhat of a confession, I don't like Random Access Memories.
In my defense, it's because I love Daft Punk.
I definitely loved it when it first came out. You have to imagine it, I'm like 17 about and there's this huge build up for this album and the way people talk about it you'd think it was going to save the music industry or something. And a couple of things with that, what would it be "saving" the music industry from exactly?
I've read two brilliant things on Pitchfork. The best was a phenomenal and highly recommended essay that reflects on the influence of African music in Indie Pop through the personal lens of the daughter of an African producer. The other was a sentence in a review of Mumford & Son's 2018 record, "Delta."
In the review, writer Larry Fitzmaurice describes Mumford & Sons as, "the previously shuffling folk-rock troupe led by Marcus Mumford, who unwittingly led the EDM-reactionary 'real music' movement in the early 2010s." Despite having read that sentence over 2 years ago, it has stayed with me and largely refocused how I viewed music from when I was a teenager.
Random Access Memories' whole brand is summed up in the first song, "Give Life Back to Music." The album featured real instruments and old school production and by the love of Christ they were going to make sure everyone knew it.
I thought my memory of this album being hyped up to all hell was merely a result of being a teenager and everything feeling more important back then. However when I recently read a Daft Punk interview published in The Guardian, the writer points out that Daft Punk had billboards on Sunset Boulevard and premiere commercials during SNL. I was supposed to be hype!
It didn't matter that I was into electronic musicians, the fight between "real music" and "laptop music" was cemented in my mind with a clear winner. If you did like electronic music, you were supposed to sit on the winner's side while gazing lustfully at the best music you've ever heard and insist it was inferior, lest you be called a Belieber or something. Random Access Memories made that twisted head space pretty easy.
You know, despite the ideological conflicts I may have with the album, and don't hold a gun to my head later about what I'm saying now I'll probably change my mind bucko, the reason I don't like it is because I don't love it.
I can't be the only person who thought for years that the word mediocre meant "bad." The use of the word now is tinged with the idea of badness, like a burger with the onions picked off. This album is peak mediocre. I can think of one other thing as mediocre and it happened in Ohio and it happened outside of my ex's car.
There's moment that are great. It's produced down to shreds. I like a lot of the songs.
But it's not a phenomenal album and it's hard to say why. I'll keep trying.