Human After All

Human After All

When Daft Punk began a six–week recording session in the fall of 2004, the state of electronic music was in flux. Gone was the North American electronica boom, which the duo had conveniently bookended with its beloved 1997 debut Homework and 2001’s multi-platinum Discovery. In its place was a post-9/11 repurposing of post-punk cool and downtown posturing that had little in common with the exuberant house and sleek disco of Daft Punk’s previous output—or so it seemed. Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo had always gone to great lengths to shine a light on their musical inspirations, whether it was name-checking their favourite DJs and producers on Homework’s “Teachers” or partnering with the likes of Romanthony and Todd Edwards on Discovery. But the duo’s third album, 2005’s Human After All, was full of harsher sounds and skeletal structures, with songs that felt like lesser copies of the raw dance-punk approach being pioneered by indie dance acts like Peaches, MSTRKRFT and Justice vs Simian. Formerly supportive critics were quick to call out this misstep, pointing out Human After All tracks like “Technologic”—which many saw as a rewarmed sloganeering version of the group’s smash hit “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. Bangalter and Homem-Christo themselves seemed less than enthralled by the whole affair, declining to talk to the press and refusing to tour. One wonders how the group might have moved forward had it not been for a call from Coachella impresario Paul Tollet, who offered the duo an exorbitant (for the time) payday if Bangalter and Homem-Christo would devise their first live show since 1997. And while Human After All was raked over the coals, critically and commercially, Daft Punk still had enough goodwill to garner both a Grammy nomination and an unlikely tribute song (“Daft Punk is Playing at My House”) by critical darlings LCD Soundsystem. So Bangalter and Homem-Christo polished up their helmets, reconfigured Human After All for the stage and took a reputational mulligan when Daft Punk’s infamous pyramid performance debuted in 2006.

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