China: 20 Years of Homework

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Daft Punk – Homework

Released January 20th, 1997 on Virgin Records

Twenty years ago MTV (MuchMusic here at home) started playing a weird video where a bipedal dog in a dirty jacket and a leg in a cast took a gander at the nightscape of an urban neighbourhood he’d just moved to while he carried around a radio blasting some dirty, distorted synth-funk.  That song was “Da Funk” and it, along with “Around The World” were the sort of crossover radio-club staples that most electronic groups could only dream of.  The key, of course, was that it eschewed Euro Pop formulas in favour of hard French house, and brought French house shuddering into mainstream American attention.

The duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter weren’t always stylish and cool futurists playing house music for an audience stuck in the past.  Prior to picking up synthesizers and drum machines, the two played in an indie band called Darlin’, who played, as Melody Maker put it, “a daft punky thrash.” After that band fell apart, the duo took up electronic instruments, ultimately presenting their music to a DJ at a EuroDisney rave (tell me that doesn’t make sense).  They recorded a slew of tracks, intending them to be a long series of singles, but eventually they realized that they would be better served releasing a full album since there was just so much music recorded.  The result was Homework, a relentless barrage of pounding house music that sounds as at home on the festival main stage as it does in the club, which would become very influential on DJs as the 21st Century began to unfold.

Homework was the opening salvo in the rave invasion of suburban North America, one of the albums released in 1997 that would strip away many of the alt-rock fans that hadn’t by then turned to hip-hop.  One could make the argument that the initial shots were fired by Becoming X and Better Living Through Chemistry (and, in a sense, by Aphex Twin’s “home-listening techno”) but neither Fatboy Slim nor the Sneaker Pimps would become really big until 1998, after Daft Punk, the Crystal Method, the Prodigy made executive housing developments safe for rave culture.  While the repetitive hooks of “Da Funk” and “Around The World” probably annoyed the hell out of the Boomers who had to listen to them even peripherally, they galvanized their kids and brought a whole new form of expression to their creative ideas.

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