There are a lot of albums I consider to be great, but ultimately I always return to Daft Punk’s Alive 2007. I find it strange that I would consider a live album to be the best ever produced, but I can never seem to ignore the power of the performance here. For the entirety of the album’s 74:04 minute run time, I can’t help but get taken away by these crazy but incredibly talented robots.
Daft Punk purists might argue that Alive 2007 is an inferior album to Human After All or Discovery - which, admittedly, are both incredible – and non-Daft Punk fans might argue that there is plenty of better electronic music to find elsewhere, but I find that Alive 2007 captures all of the best elements of electronic music without any real flaws. The album is quite simply perfect.
The album wholeheartedly embraces its performance-centered focus with a nearly one-and-a-half-minute intro to “Robot Rock / Oh Yeah” that focuses largely on the applause until it suddenly kicks in, bringing the audience with it into a frantic pace that will be carried on for the rest of the album. In some ways, it’s almost an electronic power ballad, not quite as hard as other songs on the album, but every bit as raucous.
It leads into “Touch It / Technologic,” which immediately hits hard with a heavy bass beat that quickly accelerates and leads into the electronic vocals. Then, just as you’re getting used to it, Daft Punk pulls back, dropping off most of the bass and focusing almost entirely on the “Technologic”-based vocals before kicking back in harder than ever at the 3:45 mark of the 5:30 minute song.
It carries this heavier pace directly into “Television Rules the Nation / Crescendolls,” which is one of the strongest songs on the already quality album. Around the 0:50 second mark, the bass begins to ramp up – similar to the effects in the previous track – but in this song, Daft Punk holds the core of the beat steady, not quickening the pace and instead throwing in a mix of other electronic effects. Only a little over halfway through the song does it change, switching to a heavy “Crescendolls” focus at the three-minute mark, sans bass, before bringing it right back. Then at around 3:20, the song seems to hit its peak, bringing in a drumroll-like effect as it builds to grand finale, which it carries for nearly 20 seconds before bring in the true peak of the song, a full-fledged combination of “Television Rules the Nation” and “Crescendolls.” No one other than Daft Punk could have combined two such disparate songs so well.
Then, almost suddenly, the tone shifts to the slower (relatively speaking) song “Too Long / Steam Machine,” which is the third longest song of the album at 7:02. Slightly more vocal heavy than most of the other songs on the album, the “Too Long” elements are placed over a guitar-like series of effects that then suddenly drops off into a purely electronic focus at around the 1:30 mark. This section is Daft Punk almost showing off what they do best – taking a relatively simple melody and slowly adding one element to it at a time, making it progressively more and more powerful. No one BUILDS on themselves quite like Daft Punk does, the duo are the masters of holding a common thread while weaving other elements in and out of the overall song they’re making. Particularly around the 3:00 mark, Daft Punk starts playing with the pace and throwing in extra synth effects. It’s right on the verge of being too much as it continues to build, but instead it brings us right to the edge and keeps us there for what you first expect will be the rest of the song, before suddenly dropping into the “Steam Machine”-heavy part of the song, which is slower and simpler – at first – before then ramping the intensity up again.
After shifting into a slower pace while it plays with the “Steam Machine” vocals, Daft Punk slowly shifts into a merger of two of their most beloved songs, “Around the World / Harder Better Faster Stronger.” Here, the live elements of the album are most in focus, with the audience loudly cheering as the familiar “Around the World” beat begins to appear. You find yourself cheering along with the audience, wishing you could have been with them that night at the performance. At the 0:45 mark, you feel this sensation even more strongly when the last “Steam Machine” elements finally fade away and the focus shifts entirely to “Around the World.” You hear the audience singing along with the song and begin to do so yourself – I’ve listened to a lot of live albums, but none capture the experience of actually being at a concert quite as well as Alive 2007 does.
Just as you’re getting into it, the song drops off into the “Harder Better Faster Stronger” realm, then immediately throwing “Around the World” back into the mix just twenty-seconds or so later. The element of surprise is totally present here – in some songs, Daft Punk chooses to do long segments focused on one song and then for something like “Harder Better Faster Stronger,” they weave the other songs in almost immediately. You can almost picture the duo splitting in your head, one focusing entirely on each half. But it wouldn’t be Daft Punk if they did what you expected and they throw us back into an almost pure rendition of “Harder Better Faster Stronger” at around the 4:00 minute mark, almost just because they can at this point. The song lives up to its name, getting harder and faster until the very end.
Then, much like we’ve seen with other songs, Daft Punk pulls back and reverts to a relatively simple beat before they begin to play with spinning effects on “Burnin’ / Too Long.” The duo continues this until the bring in the synthesizers again and begin to throw in other electronic keyboard effects, creating a bizarre, other-worldly sensation. There’s no vocal focus here at all, it’s purely just two guys messing around with what a rapper might use for just a beat, but Daft Punk turns it into something more, increasing the intensity at around the 3:30 mark, quickening some layers of the song while holding others steady. We actually begin to hear vocals – and the audience singing along – over halfway through the song and the beat almost entirely disappears, with Daft Punk slowly then putting the background layers back into the song.
They slowly start removing these layers and slow down the pace greatly – giving it almost a “chopped & screwed”-type impact – as they shift into “Face to Face / Short Circuit,” which is one of the most unique songs on the album. At first, it almost seems like it doesn’t fit on the album. You can’t help but wonder what exactly they’re doing here until the “Harder Better Faster Stronger” melody shows up behind the “Face to Face” lyrics. It’s a strange combination, but it works. Is it the strongest song on the album? Hardly, but it’s a nice change of pace.
Then the bells start to ring and we’re quickly ushered into the amazing “One More Time / Aerodynamic.” The familiar concert-heavy focus is back in full-force here, with the audience screaming along with “One More Time” and the song just feels like a party. “One more time…I’m gonna celebrate!” The audience and the lyrics seem to be perfectly in-tune in a way that would be impossible to replicate anywhere else. The song then shifts to the rapid-fire “Aerodynamic,” which is probably the fastest paced song to be found on the album. Yet again, it’s almost too much, but Daft Punk takes us to the edge and holds us there as they slowly weave the “One More Time” elements back into the mix.
Just as quickly as they’re brought back in, however, they’re taken away as we shift into the mash-up “Aerodynamic Beats / Gabrielle , Forget About the World.” The song quickly jumps back and forth between the two, never letting you get used to any given pace as the duo deftly dances between the two songs.
It’s the shortest song on the album, however, and serves partially as just as an introduction to the 10:22 long “Prime Time of Your Life / Brainwasher /Rollin ‘and Scratchin’ / Alive.” Yes, you read that right – it’s a mash-up of four Daft Punk songs. To paraphrase Daniel Tosh, while some may have said impossible, Daft Punk said “Nay” and went all-in on it. The high-pitched screetching effects provide a sharp contrast against the booming “Prime Time of Your Life” intro and then at around the 2:30 mark, the song frantically jumps into “Rollin ‘and Scratchin’”-inspired elements while still holding onto the “Brainwasher”-centered motif. This segment is one of the most unique on the album, with essentially every electronic effect you can think of thrown into the mix.
It is here that Daft Punk proves that they are not just the masters of their own music, but that they are the supreme robot overlords of all electronic music. They play with it, change it, mix it…all seemingly on-the-fly as they slowly lead into the simpler “Alive”-inspired elements. With the sound of the audience’s applause jacked up, the concert-centered heart of the album is back in full force as the duo weaves all four songs together for the last two minutes of the song.
After dropping off almost entirely at the conclusion, we are slowly eased into “Da Funk / Dadftendirekt” as if the two are almost starting the album over again. “Da Funk” is hands down one of Daft Punk’s most fun songs, seemingly-inspired more by “traditional” music then it is by electronic music of the age, focusing almost entirely for a while on instrumentation. Then however, the power is back on, and we’re given a full-fledged dance experience and this pace is kept for the rest of the song, leading to the total takeover of the audience applause at the end.
And then we’re given what might be the strongest entry on the whole album: “Superheroes / Human After All / Rock’n Roll.” At first, as you hear “Gone through the air” crooned over and over again, you’re not sure whether it’s the audience or Daft Punk themselves, but the two groups are brought together as the lower layers of the song kick in, giving the words an almost eerie, yet pleasant feel, until they drop off in favor of the guitar-like riff. The “Human After All”-elements take-over, slowing the song down as we wait to see what the duo is about to do next. At this point in the album, you honestly have no idea what to expect from Daft Punk, which is exactly what makes them so unique as artists.
True to form, the beat drops off and shifts to a heavy focus on vocals, but still an almost exclusively “Human After All”-based sound. Slowly, much like the end of many of the other songs, elements of the other songs are brought back in. The repetitive “gone through the air” sounds even better over whatever it is that Daft Punk has made as background music for these strange lyrics, but it’s beautiful and overbearing at the same time. Then we hear the robotic “AFTER ALL” and we know that the main performance is over.
…but what’s a concert without an encore. We hear the audience continuing to cheer for an encore and we hear their excitement when the robotic “HUUUUMAAANNNNNN” takes over amidst a heavy synthetic sound and Daft Punk leads us into “Human / Together / One More Time / Music Sounds Better With You / Stardust (Instrumental).” You read that right – five songs mashed-up together for the conclusion. Would you have it any other way?
At around 2:15, we’re given the eerie effects of a repeater as the bass kicks back in, slowly at first, but then more quickly as it goes on. The repeated “Human…Human…Human” shows up again, but this time only in the background. Then the “Together”-elements show up, with Daft Punk jumping back and forth between “Together” and whatever they were doing before then. It slows down, focusing almost exclusively on the vocals for a brief moment before we slowly start to hear the familiar elements of “One More Time” in the background. Slowly, they fade from the background back to the forefront of the song, eventually overwhelming everything else, much to the crowd’s delight.
When we finally hear the words “One More Time,” you can hear the audience screaming in the background and they quickly begin singing along. The party-feel from earlier is back and it’s here more so than ever. As I listen, I can’t help but to picture people almost completely enveloped in a rave-like atmosphere. Then the elements from the other songs are back in, with “Music Sounds Better With You” brought in as well. At this point, the song really is just completely overwhelming. You hear the “One More Time” lyrics, the “Music Sounds Better With You” elements and the slow, crawling “Together” effects in the background that all somehow leads into the keyboard-based sound of “Stardust” for just a moment before jumping right back to the eerie sound effects of the beginning of the song.
…and then it’s over. Just when Daft Punk finally brings you to the point where you almost can’t handle anymore, we listen as they play with electronic fading effects until they fade out entirely, leaving us only with the wild cheers of an audience, an audience we can’t help but wish we were part of.
That’s why Alive 2007 is the greatest electronic album of all time. There’s no other album like it.
Cover photo courtesy of Daft Punk and Fabio Venni from London, UK via Wikimedia Commons. None of the above parties are affiliated with or endorse BoomPopMedia in any way.