Super, Human, Robot, Heroes
Lots of folks brag about the legendary Coachella 2006 debut of Daft Punk’s mashed-up, lit-up stage show even if they weren’t really there. Thanks to one enterprising bootlegger, dozens of cellphone cameras, and countless file-sharing fiends it’s a landmark—and Daft Punk poster children—for sprawling, tech-savvy punk ethos. One can’t help but compare the new official live album Alive 2007 to those original, essential, illicit recordings, and frankly it starts off at a deficit. In a sad omission from the overwhelmingly coordinated Daft Punk experience, little official video accompanies the release of this audio. So, absent a DVD full of footage of space helmets, black pyramids, and LED grids the big album selling points become (1.) a fresh take on what’s now just a Daft Punk megamix, (2.) a bonus disc of encore extras, and (3.) buying the concert recording quality you couldn’t normally leech for free.
Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo’s musical intensity nevertheless forces its way into your head, and not because any sound came compressed through a pinhole microphone. The “Face to Face/Short Circuit” segment of Alive 2007, for example, gives the former song’s disco vocals more face time than at Coachella. Additional glitches, breakdowns and other set tweaks pump up portions of tracks like “Robot Rock,” while “Too Long/Steam Machine” forces together grooves to make aural theatrics instead of a pure dance jam. The production even lets Daft Punk’s rabid Bercy, France fans take a star turn—they coo with instrumental riffs, loudly sing with looped sound bites, and turn a “Da Funk/Daftendirekt” medley into a soccer chant.
Of course, featured first and foremost during Daft Punk’s traveling circus was their savvy decision to juxtapose elements from a rather wretched album, Human After All, with far superior parts of the DP catalog. No wonder this mix is at its throbbing, imaginative best when one song’s synth buzz weaves through another’s dense strings and percussion on “Television Rules the Nation/Crescendolls,” and when simple lyrics and loops of fury form the anthemic hybrid “Prime Time of Your Life/Brainwasher/Rollin’ and Scratchin’/Alive.”
Beyond the lack of video, some other Alive 2007 moments pale versus Daft Punk’s original mothership connection. A few breaks in the middle and the “Aerodynamic Beats/Forget About the World” interlude slow the album’s momentum. An early “Touch It/Technologic” segment sounds clumsier than it did live in ’06, and “Around the World” still plays for just two minutes before being eclipsed by “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” In spite of these shortcomings, Alive 2007 is a classy document of one of music’s most skillfully executed tours, and if filling in the blanks means scanning YouTube for a few hours…there are worse ways to spend your time.