Is “Human After All” Good?

Album Art

In fall (I think it was fall, it may have been summer) of 2010, I downloaded Daft Punk’s compilation Musique, a collection of their greatest hits from their first three albums, from the Zune Marketplace with my Zune Pass, a service which allowed for unlimited music downloads for the low, low fee of only 15 dollars per month. I would like to take this sentence to apologize to my dad for making him pay for that.

Anyway, that compilation was great, and is still great. From there, I bought it, and then  Homework and Discovery on CD (I think my dad put his foot down and stopped paying for the Zune pass by the beginning of 2011). Actually, here’s the chronology of me buying Daft Punk albums by year:

Musique (2004): Probably like November of 2010 (Vintage Stock)

Discovery (2011): May 7th, 2011. (Best Buy)

Homework (1997): August 11th, 2011. (FYE, Mall of America)

Tron: Legacy (2010): Probably spring 2012

Alive 1997 (1997): I think that was a Christmas gift in 2012

Random Access Memories (2013): May 21st, 2013 (Amazon)

In case you’re wondering, I have some sort of documentation for all of those exact dates. My memory of triviality is far too vast but it’s not that exact.

Anyway, to finish this thing that’s probably taking up too much space on the page:

Human After All (2005): April 2016

I don’t know why it took me so long to get to this point where I’d actually want to purchase this album, but I bit the bullet last week because I wanted to listen to the track “Human After All” and let the rest of the album figure itself out. Here is what I figured out:

“Human After All”, the song, is a great song

It really is. It’s a great opener for the album, definitely sets the tone for the record, and creates probably the best example of the musical ideas that define the record – Repetition and anticlimax. They don’t waste repetitions of the main theme, they constantly build up, and then they hit you in the face with a beautiful climactic yet isolated “AFTER ALL” at the end of the track. Of course,

Nothing is done as well as “Human After All” is for the rest of the album

Listening to this album again made me realize that I think maybe three tracks are actually good. Those are the aforementioned title track, “Robot Rock”, and “Steam Machine”. The rest is either mediocre or mishandled. “Robot Rock” is a classic, with that sample and the robot voice, I remember driving while listening to it when I was 16 or so and looking down seeing I was going like 80 in a 65. This anecdote would have more impact if you knew how cautious of a driver I was when I was 16. “Steam Machine” just jams itself into your face and you have to accept it, it’s like an audio version of Shaquille O’Neal on Chris Dudley.

shaq on dudley.gif

Obviously I’m going to put this in here.

I appreciate a song that can do that.

“The Prime Time of Your Life” starts hot but builds up to lost ideas. It’s like digging for treasure, except when you get the treasure, you find, like, a Mounds bar. “Make Love” starts cold and builds nowhere. “The Brainwasher” is like a sludgy mess of a song, rehashing everything that was wrong with “Rock and Roll” off of Homework. “On/Off” builds up to “Television Rules the Nation”. “Television Rules the Nation” starts well and then really doesn’t go anywhere with it. Also, “Television Rules the Nation” as a concept for something insightful sounds so dated today, when I watched more TV yesterday due to two MLS games and an NBA Playoff game than I probably had in the past three weeks combined, and that was maybe four hours at the most. Also,

“Technologic” is not good

It basically represents everything that I don’t care for about this album. The sample is grating, sure, but it’s not just the fact that I don’t like the sample that hurts it (I like Joanna Newsom, I can deal with high-pitched voices). It sticks one idea, the sample, in there, and just sort of lets it hang out until the song finishes.

Also, I can’t ignore the fact that this totally would work as a commercial for like, a Nikon camera or something else technology related in 2006 or so.

I was close. This song makes me want to buy products. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I don’t go around listening to commercials for fun.

“Emotion” is not a desirable ending

This feels like they knew what they had with “Too Long” at the end of Discovery but they couldn’t quite update that idea for the next album. It’s really difficult to make such a long track interesting on a typical album, which is what made “Too Long” such a good album ender. “Emotion” just doesn’t do that, doesn’t provide the listener with that much to keep them entertained for the full six minutes. You catch yourself looking at whatever’s playing the song and asking “how long is this song?” in a negative sense, rather than the positive form of that same question that you’d get with “Too Long.”

THE VERDICT:

Is Human After All good?

Not really. Some of it is really good. Ironically, the song of the same name is excellent. But the album as a whole? Not entirely. It’s a good album to remind you of what 2004 sounded like, but past that, I don’t take that much enjoyment out of it.

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About Joe Bush

The guy behind JoeBush.net and a lot of other things
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