Ironically this all started with an album that was itself only intended to be a bunch of singles first day. By the time their final album came, they were one of the biggest groups in the world, and they remained in demand as a live act and as producers until the end too. Longevity is always difficult in music, but they depart at a time when they are still both credible and commercially viable, which is pretty impressive really. Their legacy and influence will remain huge forever.
I remember working in Comet records on Wahington Street in the mid-90s the day “Da Funk” came out. The 12” on Scottish label Soma was unlike anything else around at the time, and it became a huge favourite long before “Homework” came out. The album itself was massively anticipated, and it was huge too, and the duo simultaneously brought us other wonderful projects such as Stardust and the Crydamoure and Roule labels, who themselves released some classic singles at the time.
Their were other groups who helped, but Daft Punk were at the forefront of legitimising dance music to fans of indie and rock. They were very important in helping revitalise a disco genre that had been unfashionable for many since the early 80s, though Daft Punk, like the American house acts they adored, knew more than anyone that the spirit of disco always remained through the new sounds coming from Detroit, Chicago and New York aswell as the old records which they mined cleverly through sampling.
They were very open and respectful of the pioneers who helped create this sound and they not only name checked them on ‘Teachers”, but they worked with them too. If it wasn’t for Romanthony and co, Daft Punk wouldn’t have been, and I always thought it was cool that they collaborated on “One more time”, one of their most memorable singles. Daft Punk also had a particularly European swagger and brought a certain type of avant-garde arthouse vibe to the table too.
Their music productions were always on point and they crucially controlled their artistic output long after they became a successful stadium sized act, and they were one of the groups which brought dance music back to the American mainstream decades after their dismissal of disco. It was typical of music history that many of these newly accepted acts were a lot whiter than those once dismissed, but Daft Punk themselves were always respectful of their roots and history, and they were far from mere culture vultures, unlike some.
In later years, they remained popular as producers too, and Kanye West and the Weeknd both benefitted from some great productions, while under their own name they released the massively popular “Random Access Memories”, and of course “Get Lucky” with Nile Rodgers and Pharrell, one of those tracks that became ubiquitous and demonstrated that the Chic sound was timeless too. They also worked with another pioneer, Georgio Moroder, on the album, which has some excellent tracks, though it did divide a few critics.
Keeping the mystery intact was always impressive too, and in the era of celebrities, it’s quite impressive that Thomas and Guy could probably walk down the street largely unrecognised by most of us in 2021. Controlling the narrative musically and creatively was always the aim, and Daft Punk were from their early days very confident in their own vision. They became very important visually and artistically as well as musically, and they will be remembered as one of the greatest dance acts of all time.
The French house scene of the 90s was packed with talent, and Daft Punk helped open the floodgates for many of their peers. They took all the success in their stride and never succumbed to the temptation to over-release music, so their output remained pretty consistent and new releases were always heavily anticipated.
Even at the end, they controlled the narrative, and did it the way they wanted. It was a fitting finale to a great era.