In case you haven’t heard, my old friends Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, better known as The Silver One and The Gold One, have called it quits. The post-mortem tier lists have been drafted; the Wikipedia verbs have been quietly transmuted to past tense. Daft Punk is over, and in shockingly mundane fashion. Their video farewell Epilogue had an undeniably poetic quality, but the fact that it reused both video and music from their older work made it feel much more like a budget AMV than a parting gift from our most serene Digital Frenchmen. No final parting track? No heartfelt goodbye? Is this really it?
Call me a tragic, but I can’t help but wish that their break-up had the same compulsive mystique as their career. Daft Punk thrived on theatrics. Many artists who shun the spotlight end up reaping the rewards with a kind of Streisand effect (see Frank Ocean or the late MF DOOM). But Daft Punk didn’t just reject the media, they rejected the appearance of humanity, adopting instead the likeness of the android. Since 2007, you can count their number of live appearances on one hand, and their career is naturally brimming with apocryphal stories.
In 2012, shortly before the commercial release of Random Access Memories, there was just one single copy of the album’s master in existence. It needed to get from the studio in New York to the Label headquarters in L.A but owing to the fractional chance that X-Rays from airport security could decay the priceless album, air travel was deemed impossible. Two Columbia Records interns were instead tasked with driving cannonball across the entire country, and told to deliver the precious cargo by hand. Doesn’t this story just ooze with screenplay bait, crafted to hype up eager fans?
Or, take the torch-passing encounter shared by Australian disco outfit Parcels in 2016. Embarking upon their pilgrimage first to Melbourne, then Berlin, the youthful Parcels came face to face with our heroes one night while performing in a Paris club. As they prepared backstage, whispered rumours from the crowd came through to them: “the Robots are coming.” As Daft Punk later appeared in the crowd (incognito of course), they judged the group worthy of an invitation to their studio. There they would produce the group’s breakout single Overnight, ushering in Parcels’ career as loyal servants of The Funk.
Since I was a kid, these legends of Daft Punk kept me hanging on every scrap of information. To date, the greatest betrayal of my life was believing a fake teaser for a 2017 Alive Tour – complete with ersatz coordinates promising an Australian leg. Last week Daft Punk announced their split, and it seems that Pitchfork were the only media outlet in the world with the phone number of the duo’s publicist, Kathryn Frazier. The news could not have been more banal: “Kathryn Frazier confirmed the news to Pitchfork but gave no reason for the breakup.”
With all of that said, if you’re struggling to cope with the disappointment, allow me to recommend a treatment: forget their fiction and just enjoy the music. Take a walk in the City and inhabit the world of Homework. Relive the sublime heights of Discovery over drinks with friends. Or lie back with headphones and subject yourself fully to the technical mastery of the peerless, the flawless, and the ruthlessly funky Random Access Memories. After these three albums and all the rest of their discography, it’s hard to wish for much more. Their personas may have retired with more of a whimper than a bang, but their music will speak for itself again, and again, and again.