‘Alive 2007’ Album Finds Daft Punk in Top Form

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Daft Punk never completely disappeared from public consciousness, but after the endlessly repetitive robot rock of 2005’s Human After All was met with a lukewarm reception from critics and fans, it seemed that the infallible poster boys of French dance pop were beginning to lose their luster.

But misstep or not, Daft Punk bounced back for one of the most fruitful years of their career, thanks in no small part to an already legendary performance from last year’s Coachella festival that saw the debut of the group’s trademark obsidian pyramid set and an intense, career-spanning setlist.

This sudden and inexplicable second coming was a reassuring reboot for longtime fans of the group, but for many others, the duo’s appearances at a number of large rock-leaning festivals this year were more of a proper (if late) introduction. For newcomers, the exhaustive world tour served as undeniable, body-moving proof that the vision and influence of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo extends far beyond the hypnotic vocoder loop of “Around the World.” And like so many of the finer things in life, the magic lies in the details.

When Daft Punk appropriates metal, for instance, they’re not winking at us through their visors—they’re actually just as heavy as Sabbath and can rock with unholy power. The same goes for the talk box guitar solos and lyrical doting of tracks like “Digital Love” from 2001’s Discovery: in lesser humanoid hands, these elements might be played for laughs, but Bangalter and de Homem-Christo manage to turn them into something transcendent and sexy.

The greatest irony, of course, is the robot get-up: Daft Punk’s music is warm and passionate in a genre that’s often polarized between club bangers and ostentatious (and certainly less danceable) experimentalism. The draw of Daft Punk lies in their universal appeal, which is why it’s no surprise that Alive 2007 is a truly gripping experience.

As Daft Punk’s obligatory comeback souvenir, Alive 2007 is unimpeachable in that it’s more or less a pitch perfect replica of the set they’ve been playing since that fateful Coachella performance. Recorded from an appearance in Paris this year, the album features a Discovery-heavy endless mashup that follows a sort of “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” model of epic grandeur. What happens, for instance, when the already larger than life “Around the World” merges into the equally impressive “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”? What could have easily been a train wreck of robo-yodelling instead turns into something magical—a massive moment that might just render even the most rapturous moments of the group’s catalogue miniscule by comparison.

But even better, Alive 2007 is the perfect single-disc distillation of Daft Punk’s career. The less inspired songs from Human After All suddenly come to life here, making for a performance that’s as much headbanger’s ball as it is end-of-the-universe dance party. And the selections from 1997’s Homework, while relatively few in number, carry the show into the home stretch with a loving nod to the group’s older fans.

The only omission (and it’s a glaring one) is that the album neglects an element that is as integral to the Daft Punk live show as the music itself: the sublime sight of the group’s electrifying stage set, pulsating in time to their driving anthems. It’s an unfortunate missed opportunity, but one that’s ultimately forgivable—instead of giving us the best concert film of the year, Daft Punk settled on the best live album instead.

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