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According to one legend, Daft Punk have already been dead for 22 years. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo were collateral damage in a sampler explosion on September 9, 1999, the duo reported at the time. Their subsequent album, Discovery, was made by robots.
Nobody was supposed to believe it. It was a droll interpretation of the ubiquitous ’90s electro scenario where two boring blokes bashed beats and samples together in a bedroom and made folks dance all around the world by the miracle of digital remote control.
Like their man-robot forebears Kraftwerk, albeit with more funky hit-single mojo, the former Parisian school buddies were making a statement about the misplaced emphasis on personality in a new creative realm enabled by technology. In marketing and privacy capacities, the anonymity factor surely had its rewards too.
Daft Punk have announced they are splitting after 28 years.
One answer is that despite their best theatrical intentions, Daft Punk are made of flesh and blood. Their separation entails real emotions that need to be processed, in their case as a community of vast global proportions lamenting in tens of thousands of social media comments in every language under the sun. If somebody truly loves you, no amount of tinfoil spacesuits and other conceptual gimmickry will stop them.
But listen, we know what happens to robots, right? They never really die; they just spend some down time in the trash compactor until some Wookie comes along and reassembles them in the sequel. For sound processing artists like Daft Punk, consumption and regeneration is part of the deal. They sample ELO and Barry White and Sister Sledge, they get sampled by Janet Jackson and Kanye and Williams. Daft Punk is an essential part of the eternal, morphing ether of modern music now.
The working partnership of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo is a separate story. Spinal Tap outed every ageing band’s standard marketing strategy back in 1992 when they defined their future as “a carefully orchestrated series of farewells and reunions”. Failing some unspoken tragic understory, surely odds are that more music will emerge sooner or later. In this business of music, even the actual death of a key player is just a career pivot point.
In truth, Daft Punk were always more human than robots. Hugging and bumping helmets at the Grammies in those clumsy leather space suits, they were way more adorable than Kraftwerk; much more family-friendly than TISM, less art-scary than the Residents. Whether the two guys inside the concept can resist the lures of money and ego that drive the endless reunion circus might be the ultimate test of their human nature.
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