"One More Time" is the ubiquitous and unsurprisingly faceless first single from Daft Punk's sophomore album, Discovery, but it might as well be an affirmation of the band's artistic mantra. The track, which throbs on a building 4/4 beat and horns passed down from the gods of disco, seems to challenge the listener to deny his ass-shaking impulses. Singer Romanthony insists, "We're gonna celebrate, all right -- don't stop the dancing" over the duo's seemingly never-ending string of electronic processors. And yet in its infinite catchiness, "One More Time" bears little trace of the person or entity who created it. The capital-F formula of contemporary dance music is by and large without a driving personality, mostly because the end result of dance music is the music itself, rather than the personalities of those who are making it. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo, who have publicly withheld images of their faces and invented stories about explosions in the studio that left them with robot bodies, exploit the anonymity of electronica and dare you not to buy in. And you reply enthusiastically: "One more time."
Discovery is a compelling amalgam of the retro-futuristic sound of Vangelis, Seventies kitsch, and Eighties-freestyle beats, bridging the gap between "Disco Sucks" and Depeche Mode. "Aerodynamic" shoves Bootsy Collins, Afrika Bambaataa, and Moog pioneer Walter Carlos into a wind tunnel and creates a three-movement symphony in less than four minutes, and then backs into "Digital Love," which is less an ode to cybersex than a Baroque pop tune with lyrics so simple and pure they should be followed by the question "Do you like me?" and two corresponding boxes for yes and no. "Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger" borrows some keyboard noodling the pair likely found rummaging in the garbage behind Shannon's recording studio, and then segues into "Crescendolls," which could be a cousin of Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," complete with stilted scratching. "Night Vision," one of the album's two down-tempo tracks, evidences the lush orchestral influence of Daft Punk's compatriots Air, as well as that of 10cc's "I'm Not in Love."
The best improvement Daft Punk made was to abolish those ten-minute tracks that dominated much of Homework, each song wearing out its welcome. The duo seems to have spent the four years between projects collecting hooks, which on the four-minute Discovery tracks clock in every thirty seconds or so. Even the anthemic "Superheroes," with its Giorgio Moroder synths and mad stripped-back beats, hits a peak in about 300 seconds.
Discovery is the distillation of Daft Punk's loosest Homework impulses into an essential megamix of danceable songwriting worthy of headphones, discotheque, or radio dial.