For a band who promoted 2001’s ‘Discovery’ LP dressed as C3P0’s bolder twin brothers, returning with a record entitled ‘Human After All’ is a shift in intent that suggests the chrome-plated kneepads are going to be filed away for a while.
‘Human After All’, the third studio recording from French DJs Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, is an endothermic exploration of man versus machine. The record where Daft Punk open their circuit boards and flash a peek at the humans who hide behind the suits. Because there’s a squelchy warmth at the heart of ‘Human After All’ that’s been well masked since their arrival with 1997’s era-defining ‘Homework’.
Album centrepiece ‘Make Love’ is a sensual slice of soft-furnished folktronica. The only dancing you could do to it would be the horizontal shuffle. Likewise album closer ‘Emotion’ is where Daft Punk orchestrate a face-off with their Apple Macs and repeatedly beat their drum machine with their bruised hearts. If career defining megasmash ‘Da Funk’ was the soundtrack of Daft Punk’s ‘I’m here!’ swagger, then this is them crouched in the corner of their studio, box of tissues in hand and blubbering for a hug.
Not that the robots have altogether been sent for scrap. ‘Robot Rock’ is the sound of the Borg laying waste to the dancefloor, a relentless loop of squelchy analog synth and marching cyber girth. ‘Steam Machine’ is a surging hard house-infused gasp and a bundle of mechanical menace. But elsewhere it’s like Daft Punk are trying to tell us something, attempting to send a message via the mainframe to remind us, and themselves, that they’re real people. It’s a record that continues Daft Punk’s probing of the inner workings of 21st-century dance music – a celebration of their pioneering brilliance. But more so ‘Human After All’ reveals more of what lies in the hearts of its reclusive creators than they’ve ever allowed us to see before.