It’s hard to believe a world existed where Daft Punk didn’t but so it did once, or so they tell me. I’m imagining dance floors with the hard sheen of mausoleums but maybe that’s because before Daft Punk we didn’t dance. We wriggled. Which sounds like a Chuck Norris joke but isn’t. No joke: Daft Punk’s Homework stitched together the seams of Krautrock, trash disco, and unclean fun to make a modern groovemonster, pallid complexion and all. And he who does not dance, does not eat. Which sounds like a John Smith joke but isn’t.
You could start a party without the first twenty seconds of “Da Funk” but I wouldn’t recommend it. Ask James Murphy. As one of the many modern beneficiaries of Daft Punk’s liturgy, the LCD Soundsystem architect built more than a shrine with “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House“—he knew above all that chicks can’t resist them. In recent years Daft Punk has been experiencing a renaissance of sorts thanks to all the hipsterati who think they can dance. Getting chummy with Kanye West didn’t hurt. To some extent, as is often the (unfortunate) case, they’ve been redeemed in the public eye by a series of lesser acts. But Homework is where it all started and in its jagged-glass realpolitik and gleaming jungle of beats real and imagined it beats the tight pants off all the post-IDM competition.
Working a formula they’d perfect a few years later on Discovery, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter spend much of Homework applying the rigor of careful pop-tuneage to the refined recklessness of the club. “Around The World,” way before “What Goes Around/Comes Around” would be superimposed on it for, admittedly, the mashup to fuck ALL mashups, was a shamelessly beatcentric bid for Top 40 pleasure. They just didn’t tell anybody. The midgear tracks like “Indo Silver Club” and “Fresh” deflect dirigible-sized hooks with squalls of process and studio finickry. Then there’s the rockers: “Revolution 909” complete with piped-in crowd noise that sounds like the start of an accident, and the skewed, seven-minute-long “Rollin’ & Scratchin” which pretty much predicts the Justice record in its entirety and would die before it lets up. That’s right, they’re rockers.
Amid the mad dice of samples and breakmaking, much about Daft Punk’s methodology remains impervious to scrutiny, even by gearheads. It’s the masks and the mystique more than anything that constitute most of the awe despite the fact that every badass DJ and electro nihilist owes them something. Ultimately Homework is such a minimal record it’s almost frustrating in the sense that any go you have at parsing it ends in overreaching. All the songs are killer at their own level and how they got there is anybody’s guess. To quote “Angels In America,” this is not sophistry. This is reality. This is Homework.