>Requested Review: "Discovery" by Daft Punk

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i could have just put up the american cover art here but how boring would THAT be

So tonight I will be reviewing Daft Punk’s 2001 record Discovery, as requested by blog/twitter/comicfriend Stephanie O’Donnell. It is a funny thing that has happened, with this record here; I first listened to it over a month ago, right after I finally managed to purge Chocolate Starfish from my system. And not only did I enjoy it, I listened to it a good four or five times within the span of a few days, feeling pretty prepared to write a nice review while my Daft Punk buzz was still lingering.

But THEN I spent a month and a half doing absolutely nothing! Life. So it is.

Either way, I am happy to be reviewing Discovery. Despite the fact that this is the first time I have actually sat down and listened to a Daft Punk album all the way through, my love of the classic “One More Time” runs so deep that I almost feel like I have been a fan of the band for years. Forgive me for turning into a hyperbolic critic for a second, but it is such a perfect end-of-the-millennium pre-9/11 party jam that it is impossible for me not to consider it a classic. Like Andrew W.K.’s similar classic “Party Hard” from the same year, it revels in the sheer power of insistent, sloganeering repetition: “ONE MORE TIME!” “WE’RE GONNA CELEBRATE!” “CELEBRATE AND DANCE SO FREE!” “…ONE MORE TIME!!” And of course, filtered through Romanthony’s heavily-filtered vocals, you just have to listen. It is one of those songs that just sounds like such a good time, it is impossible not to have a good time yourself the moment you hear it.

It doesn’t hurt that “One More Time” came out back when I was in 8th grade, one of my more enjoyable years attending public school. I will not bother you with my memories of the song, because they aren’t particularly exciting. But I will say that, thanks to “One More Time,” my memories of that time seem a lot more colorful and intoxicating than I imagine they actually were.

I will say that Discovery is, like “One More Time,” an album that evokes constant party-times and does not let up throughout its hour-or-so running time. Even when “One More Time” and “Aerodynamic” end with ominous church bells, or the synth keyboards of “Nightvision” briefly bring the album into a chilled-out groove, Discovery has an unstoppable energy. In fact, the album’s first four tracks are so powerful that it is almost impossible for the rest of the record to follow them up: besides the aforementioned opener “One More Time,” we have the twisted instrumental “Aerodynamic” (with a processed guitar solo in the middle that I am pretty much in love with), followed by what might be my favorite track on the record next to “One More Time” – “Digital Love.” Unlike most of Discovery‘s other tracks, “Digital Love” relies more on a poppy (and, obviously, vocodered) vocal melody than a repetitious techno-dance groove, and is all the better for it. I mean, it’s just so catchy! And adorable! And there are synth-horns that come out of nowhere. I have no idea who sings it, but man. It is an intoxicating and lovely track.

This four-track opening blitz ends with “Harder Better Faster Stronger” which I don’t need to say a word about. You know it, you idiot. Let’s not play these games!! It was in that Kanye song and that Youtube clip of that guy with the fingers. Of course you know it. Now, I am not going to sit here and tell you that Discovery gets worse all of the sudden after “Stronger” is over – that would not be right of me, to say such things. Because who can knock the insane blip-bloopy rush of “Crescendolls”? Or the funky, laid-back groove of “Something About Us”? Or the insistent dance-floor dramatics of “Superheroes? or “High Life”? Nobody can, that is who. Especially not somebody like me!

At the same time, I feel that Discovery‘s techno-dance-grooves become less and less distinctive as the record wears on. That is just how it is for me. I don’t always make it to the ten-minute closer “Too Long,” that is all I am saying. Some of the last few tracks on here seem to repeat a pleasant little keyboard hook, throw some phatt-ass beats under it, and repeat them over and over adding a little bit more to the mix each time. It is entertaining background dance-floor music to be sure, but it does not hold my attention for too long. I am only saying this because, well, the first half or so of Discovery is just so good and distinctive – “One More Time” and “Digital Love” being the chief examples here – that the record’s second half feels a little more disposable. (And I feel like Daft Punk knew they were front-loading the album – the first four tracks I mentioned above were all released as singles.)

But perhaps I am being finicky. I have listened through Discovery in its entirety several times and have enjoyed it. I admit that I know little to nothing about Daft Punk – I have never heard ’97’s Homework or ’05’s Human After All – so it is impossible for me to judge this record in the context of their career. The albums that bookend this one could sound completely different, or could be more of the same. I don’t know, man!! What I do know about Discovery is that it is a perfectly pleasant and often exhilirating techno-pop album, one of those unique records that is easily accessible to a mainstream pop audience but also contains a sense of depth and ingenious studio finesse that you many not always find in a pop record.

I guess the bottom line is, it is a fun album and I like it a whole bunch.

There! That wasn’t so hard.

How many Daft Punk fans have I upset with this review? Several, I bet. I feel like there is a lot more I could say about Discovery, especially after all this time and all these playthroughs, but oh well. This is how I always feel, after these reviews. It never gets any easier.

Either way, I feel that I am once again energized to get some reviews done. The next one – the next one’s gonna be a good one, folks. I can feel it. It’s one I’ve been waiting to do for a good long time. Be prepared!!

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>A Post About The Small Faces (Why Not)

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the fuck

Hope everybody’s been enjoying the requested reviews! I read through some of them and I think they have gone perfectly OK. If you haven’t been particularly excited by the requested selections so far (I don’t know why in God’s name you wouldn’t be excited by an LMFAO review, but then again I’m not you), no need to worry! We’re not even halfway through the requests I’ve gotten and I’ve saved some of the more compelling ones for last. (By that I mean, I’m doing them in the order that people actually requested them and I’m not actually choosing the order myself, so apparently I am a complete and total liar who should not be listened to.) So sit tight and you will receive more of them in due time.

It is honestly shocking to me that I last asked for these requests way back in early July. That’s almost two months ago! And in that time I’ve listened to all these other records of my own choosing that I’ve listened to more than the requests! Jeez. Not very nice of me. I can say with a bit of pride, however, that those aforementioned request-delaying albums were all real good. I already talked about one of those a couple weeks back, so I figured it might be nice of me to talk about a couple more: The Small Faces’ There Are But Four Small Faces and Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, two albums that were way way way too good for me to ignore.

One thing you might notice is that, yes, like the other album, these Small Faces records also feature Ronnie Lane. I’ll do you a favor and not talk about how much I enjoy his cherubic feel-good personality for the umpteenth time. The Small Faces, in case you do not know, were a British mod-pop-rock group from the mid-to-late 60’s. Their lead singer/songwriter/guitarist was a man by the name of Steve Marriott, whose speaking voice was the most cockney British thing you could possibly hear and whose singing voice was the best Sam Cooke-inspired vocal thing you could possibly hear. He was very good at switching between goofy over-the-top British snarls and powerful rock ‘n roll bellows, often within the same song. The bassist for this band was the aforementioned Lane, who wrote songs with Marriott and sang lead once in a blue moon; I won’t say any more about him. The other two dudes were Ian McLagan, who didn’t sing at all I don’t think but was a very talented keyboardist, and Kenney Jones, whose poundy-pound-pound drum sound (I don’t know how to describe the way drums sound) gave every Small Faces song a super-heavy backbone. Once Marriott left the band in ’69 to do music things with the great Pete Frampton, the rest recruited the now-very-well-known-but-not-so-much-so-in-ninteen-sixty-nine Rod Stewart and the kinda-sorta-well-known-now-but-only-cuz-he’s-in-the-Stones Ronnie Wood and became the Faces, another real cool band that were great for completely different reasons (The Faces = loose, sloppy and rootsy; The Small Faces = tight, poppy and rockin’). Then they broke up too, at some point. The end.

I judged the Small Faces harshly before I even heard one song by them. Once I was told they were considered “rivals of the Who” in their prime, my initial response was something along the lines of “Pshhh. Also rans.” I was a hardcore Who guy at the time, you see, and I had no more room in my heart for Mod-influenced British rock groups. From their band name and image, I’d always thought of theme as a bunch of whimsical British flower-power men. Their big hit was called “Itchycoo Park,” for crying out loud!! But of course I was wrong about all of this, like usual. “Itchycoo Park,” while a little cutesy, is the greatest song, featuring a classic call-and-response between Marriott and Lane that alternates between Lane’s innocent questions and Marriott’s unhinged responses (“What didja do there?” “I GOT HIIIIIIIII-IGH!”). Then I heard their classic ’68 concept album Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, which features some cute-yet-sinister whimsical Britishisms (“Rene” and “Lazy Sunday”, the latter being the best possible example of Marriott’s ability to switch between vocal mannerisms) and songs like “Song Of A Baker,” maybe the most (read: ONLY) badass song ever written about baking. How could a song featuring the lyrics “I’ll jug some water, bake some flower, store some salt and wait the hour” be badass, you ask? Especially one sung mostly by all-around nice man Ronnie Lane?? You’ll just have to listen for yourself, friend.

That was what really surprised me about the Small Faces – they were a pretty rockin’ band! Sure, they would sometimes be prone to the cutesier side of British psychedelia (see the entire second side of Ogden’s), but most of the time they had as heavy of a sound as anybody during the mid 60’s – and that includes the Who. Hell, if anything, they were heavier than the Who – on record, at least. While the Who were always powerful onstage, by the time of The Who Sell Out (and especially Tommy) they were adopting a more pop-oriented sound. The Small Faces wrote pop songs as well, but even on Ogden’s the force of their sound is unrelenting. My love of that album eventually led me to pick up There Are But Four Small Faces – the album immediately preceding it – on vinyl, and I would have to say I like it even better. It’s an American version of the original British release, so purists may take issue with the tracks on here, but I certainly can’t complain – a bunch of great, great singles are tacked on, including “Itchycoo Park” and “Tin Soldier,” the latter being maybe my favorite Small Faces song ever. Not unlike “Song Of A Baker,” I expected it to be almost Kinks-ian just from its title (see the Kinks’ goofy “Tin Soldier Man”), but instead it is one of the most powerfully soulful songs they ever recorded! Who knew?? That, and you’ve got “Green Circles” and “Here Come The Nice” and “Get Yourself Together” – there is not a track on this album that I do not like. While the second side of Ogden’s can be a little off-putting, Four Small Faces is primo British psych-rock from top to bottom. Twelve great tracks. Not bad at all.

So yes, yes. The Small Faces were one of those “really great bands from the Sixties” that you hear so much about. I don’t have their first album but one day I am destined to own it. And, by extension, every album by the Faces and the Humble Pie (ehhhh not so sure about that last one). If you don’t believe me about These Small Faces, take it from a band that was influenced by them a heckuva lot – the Greatest Band Alive, OASIS.

Hah! Yeah, that’s right. God-damn OASIS. If you don’t love the Small Faces just from hearing that name, what kind of awful good-music-hating cretin are you? The worst worst kind, that’s what.