I wasn’t a Daft Punk fan at first. Their first album – Homework – just felt way too repetitive; it sounded like a collection of songs built to dance to […]
I wasn’t a Daft Punk fan at first. Their first album – Homework – just felt way too repetitive; it sounded like a collection of songs built to dance to but not necessarily to listen to, if that makes sense. Though I’ve been interested in electronic music for as long as I can remember, Homework just didn’t feel like something I could enjoy listening to outside of a nightclub.
Nevertheless, it was definitely music that was cool to like. Hipsters loved it. Even Q magazine, with their focus on indie and mainstream rock, described Daft Punk – around the time of Homework’s release – as ‘Today’s Music, Today!’. To me though, it just felt like catchy hooks, but very little substance.
That all changed for me with the release of Discovery. Moving away from the style of their debut, Discovery revealed a very different sound with some – at the time – unlikely inspiration, in the form of 70s and 80s rock. Desperately uncool music, in other words – yet made fresh and enticing through reinvention by the now robotic Gallic duo. According to a quote on the album’s Wikipedia page, Thomas Bangalter – one half of Daft Punk – is quoted as saying that their first album “…was a way to say to the rock kids, like, ‘Electronic music is cool.’ Discovery was the opposite, of saying to the electronic kids, ‘Rock is cool, you know? You can like that.’” It certainly explains the band’s broad appeal, despite them working in usually divisive genres.
Listening to Discovery now, the album still feels pretty timeless; it arrived sounding like nothing else with a wave of animated promos that looked like nothing else, and it’s still pretty fresh and exciting. If the animated videos seemed like they were part of a larger narrative that we were only getting glimpses of, that’s because they were. Yet it’s surprising – to me at least – how little known the full length ‘movie’ they’re from still is.
The unwieldily titled Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem was a collaboration between Daft Punk and Japanese animé legend Leiji Matsumoto, reportedly their childhood hero. Indeed, Matsumoto appears in faux-archive footage at the opening of the movie, silently accompanied by Daft Punk in full robot regalia.
Once this brief intro is over, we’re thrown through the universe to a planet populated by blue-skinned humanoids, dancing to Daft Punk’s One More Time. From this point, barring some sound effects here and there, the only audio we here is that of the music itself; the entire movie playing out to the full Discovery album. The story concerns the blue-skinned band being kidnapped by a character who comes across as a more evil Simon Cowell (as if that were possible, right?), their memories wiped and forced to perform in order to enrich their captor and unwittingly assist him with his plans for unbridled power, as a heroic pilot from their galaxy races to save them before it’s too late.
Though pretty daft – somewhat aptly – the story does take some surprising turns, especially with the lone hero and his attempt to save the band. The visuals are spectacularly gorgeous and it goes without saying that the music, being Discovery from beginning to end, is amazing. It’s difficult, in fact, once you’ve seen it, to listen to the album without picturing the events of the film. They’re forever intertwined in my pop-culture addled brain.
If you’re not a fan of Daft Punk, or of Discovery specifically, I suspect that Interstella 5555 will hold limited appeal. Even though the animation is beautiful and the overall visual design is wonderful to behold, the central device of the film being set to a whole album with little else in the way of audio is likely to grate.
However, for those of us who consider Discovery to be a timeless classic (hopefully not just me!), this is an absolutely essential companion piece. Though I’ve enjoyed Daft Punk’s output since Discovery, nothing has come close to it, in my opinion. I wonder how much of that is due to having such a beautifully colourful movie to accompany the album? They’re so vital to each other – different sides of the same coin – in my head, that it’s impossible to know now. I’m just grateful that they both exist in my universe.
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