THE DAFT PUNK starship has finally landed. After orbiting the atmosphere during a three-year hiatus following 1997's hugely successful debut, Homework, the dance-music duo has slipped back onto the media's radar. Now Frenchmen Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo are back to abduct even the most obstinate ears with their second album, Discovery. Yet as much as the press would delight in using this opportunity to rechristen Daft Punk the original techno poster boys, the public will probably still never get a good glimpse of their faces. In an ironic effort to become anonymous music-making machines, Bangalter and Homem-Christo have shed their limiting human forms and now (literally) sport gleaming robot skins that recall Robocop. When asked what their new image says about them, their sly, common response has been that they are "not programmed to answer that."
Those fans who were sold on Homework's defiant, disco-punk gusto are likely to be somewhat puzzled by Discovery's mellow melodies and Seventies chamber-synth sounds. Though the mix here is infused with disco, the Punks have refined the harder, rawer style showcased on Homework. The result is a mating of the ethereal sounds of Air (on Discovery tracks like "Nightvision" and "Voyager") and the futuristic rock sounds of Radiohead ("Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger"). Nonetheless, Discovery's debut single "One More Time," was clearly created for anthemdom and has reigned at No. 1 on the Billboard Dance/Club-Play Chart for three weeks. The single features vocals by acid-garage producer Romanthony, as does the concluding track, "Too Long," which, amusingly, stretches out for ten minutes.
Like the Punks themselves, Discovery is a study in Darwinian evolution: It will weed out those who aren't "programmed" to evolve with Daft, and simultaneously draw in the fittest survivors from genres other than dance music. Considering their rapid development, Daft Punk will inevitably mutate to be able to inhabit another planet within the next few albums. In the meantime, enjoy Discovery for its retro-futurism while you can.