Music’s Got Me Feeling So Free: Discovery Turns 20

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Daft Punk – Discovery

Released February 26th, 2001 on Virgin Records

Produced by Daft Punk

Peaked at #23 US, #2 UK

Singles:

“One More Time” (#61 US, #2 UK)

“Aerodynamic” (#110 UK)

“Digital Love” (#14 UK)

“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” (#25 UK)

“Face To Face”

“Something About Us” (#138 UK)

Daft Punk’s first album, 1997’s Homework, was a fine example of French house music. Discovery, though, had more global ambitions. Normally when we talk about how a group has sanded off it’s rough edges and applied a layer of gloss, it’s a bad thing. It’s an offshoot of the punk movement, to be honest. Since the late 1970s generations of stoner kids have been taught to revel in the rough, the raw, the lo-fi, the DIY. If your songs are slick and commercial, we’re taught to despise them. Part of the rationale behind the “Disco Sucks” movement, beyond the racism and homophobia embedded into it, was that disco was glitzy and glamourous and not something you would blast at the smoking pit at your local high school. Discovery is very much glitz and glamour. It’s been referred to as a disco record, although this is not entirely accurate (although “Veridis Quo” tries to make the case that it, in fact, is). In fact, it’s hard to pin down precisely what Discovery is. It has many facets. “Dance-pop” is perhaps the label that encompasses everything that the album is about, and is conversely the most vague, meaningless label you could affix to it. “One More Time”, the biggest hit from the album, is very much a neo-disco banger, but it’s followed up with “Aerodynamic”, whose big funk swing gets cut for a blazing shred solo straight out of the Eighties. Elsewhere the album delves into angular New Wave beats, ambient passages, downtempo, vocoder-smooth R&B; sometimes it presents minimalism and maximalism in the same song. The reason it’s lasted for two decades is that every time you turn around on this record the duo is doing something cool and achingly fun, anchored with that big throbbing bass.

The band’s next album, 2005’s Human After All, sold well but didn’t receive the praise that Discovery got. Eight years later, though, they dropped Random Access Memories and went to #1 everywhere except the Hot 100; that would take another three years, when they hit #1 as the featured artist on The Weeknd’s “Starboy”. Discovery remains their most consistently great record, though, a tour de force of big pop stylings wrapped around a pounding house core. It is just as top-tier a pop record as Sign ‘o’ the Times or Violator or A New World Record and can still fill a dancefloor two decades on.

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