Daft Punk's music has always come with an educational component. After all, their 1997 debut was called Homework and featured a track called "Teachers" that namechecked a slew of musicians ("...Brian Wilson / George Clinton / Lil Louis...") the duo loved—and wanted fans to love as well. Their 2001 follow-up kept with the theme, right down to its title, Discovery. The guys behind gleeful dancefloor hits like "One More Time," "Da Funk," and "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" have even talked about their aspirations towards infotainment: "Homework, we did it, and it was a way to say to the rock kids, like, 'Electronic music is cool,'" Thomas Bangalter recently told GQ. "Discovery was the opposite, of saying to the electronic kids, 'Rock is cool, you know? You can like that.'"
The lesson of their latest, then, seems obvious. The insane hype surrounding the release of Random Access Memories, their fourth non-soundtrack album and their first in eight years, proves that they've grabbed the undivided attentions of the rock kids and the electronic kids. Now, they want to show those kids that the schmaltzy disco, intricate prog, and quivery soft rock of decades past is cool too. To do that, the duo largely ditched computers and samplers. They recruited the musicians that made some of the most influential records of the '70s and '80s, the likes of Chic's Nile Rodgers and Michael Jackson's Thriller and Off the Wall session players (plus newer stars like Julian Casablancas and Pharrell Williams to help out on vocals). And they recorded a lush, pristine, largely analog vision of the past.