And it all begins to make some sense. Among the many reasons I was wrong to give Human After All backhanded praise, the most glaring was my contention that it actually worked as an album, simply by virtue of it being a cohesively bad album. I can admit it now, especially since I haven’t listened to the album once since reviewing it two-and-a-half years ago. Unlike Alive 1997, which predominately played longueurs from Homework without much effort expended other than twiddling filter knobs for that extra “Musique” squelch effect, Daft Punk’s new record is explicitly a post-mashup live album. It redeems Human After All by suggesting that album’s sole reason for existing was so it could later be used as a template for chopping, screwing, juxtaposing, clicking, tweaking, and projecting the whole impressionistic collage out onto throngs of adoring headbangers in the form of a massive LED lightshow.
Songs that previously felt impudently logy, like “Robot Rock” and “The Prime Time of Your Life,” feel like logical, if pompous, extensions of Discovery‘s indelibly tacky piss take on ‘80s boogie, ‘70s FM rock, and Barry Manilow—a blend that’s still fresh, by the way (after all, Velveeta never goes bad). The cranky “Television Rules the Nation” sounds a lot less sour when buttressed by the glassy guitar licks of “Crescendolls.” “Prime Time” is smartly hot-wired by its closest antecedent, the warm whirring screeches of “Rollin’ & Scratchin’,” and the fission sparks off an aggressive medley of the rock-hard “The Brainwasher” and the unyielding metallurgy of “Alive” that’s maybe the thrashing highlight of the entire set. (The Parisian crowd certainly seems to agree as they clap along in ecstasy.) Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo even throw a bone to their b-boy demographic by interpolating Busta Rhymes’s “Touch It” into “Technologic,” which it sampled. (Returning the debt to hip-hop, they get a laugh when they loop the refrain “Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it.”)
While occasionally the duo seems to fall back on cranking up the merciless 4/4 kick until their audience begs for mercy, Alive 2007 actually does more to reveal their musicianship than almost any other Daft Punk release to date. Check out how they manage to turn the simple walking bassline of “Around the World” into an anchoring counterpoint to the bridge of “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” (in a different key, even). “Phoenix” may not appear in the album’s set list, but Alive 2007 clearly allows Human After All to be resurrected from the ashes.