A stage name and what would later become cyborg identities for Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Daft Punk saw their explosive start after the release of two singles, The New Wave and Da Funk on Soma Quality Recordings.
No ordinary debut singles, their massive popularity quickly started a bidding war which eventually saw Virgin Records sign the pair. Shortly afterwards their debut LP Homework was released on January 17, 1997, years before they put on the helmets.
Daft Punk’s DIY attitude and less-is-more approach to Homework are what makes their iconic debut LP hold together 20 years later.
In the same fashion that modern psychedelic bands will never fail to cite Pink Floyd as an influence, or the way every singer/songwriter today takes nods from Bob Dylan, house, acid, techno and multiple other realms of electro credit Daft Punk as the vital stepping stone which these genres used as a springboard.
Their use of sampling, early bassline and keyboard synths, an array of live effects, vocoders and iconic drum machines created a heavy, full-bodied analogue sound that is still tough to emulate on modern hardware.
Perhaps the end-all reason for this sonic weightiness was the fact that Bangalter and de Homem-Christo composed every song on Homework for live performances. The LP itself was an afterthought, a collection of the tracks they had up their sleeve and had been playing to audiences for years.
For example Daftendirekt, the album’s opener, had been heard as early as a Belgian techno event in 1995. Their famous live album Alive 1997, a recording of a set in Birmingham’s Que Club, begins with Daftendirekt’s main sample, layered with the percussion and synth lines of Da Funk.
What had been their show’s beginnings became their debut album’s introduction, and the rest of the track list was just as considered.
In a rare 1997 interview with Dance Music Authority magazine, De-Homem Christo remarked:
“There was no intended theme because all the tracks were recorded before we arranged the sequence of the album. The idea was to make the songs better by arranging them the way we did; to make it more even as an album.”
Revolution 909, a clear reference to Roland’s staple drum machine, shows the robots’ propensity for that line of hardware, an unrelenting tour de force of just how far the piece of technology can be pushed.
Similarly Around The World, the third single released from Homework, encapsulates Daft Punk’s savvy use of vocoders, bouncy bass line synths and acid-influenced, house friendly hooks which echoed most strongly throughout their 2001 sophomore record Discovery.
Homework represents the careful distillation of an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things electronic, an unbelievably fleshed-out record that has gone above and beyond being iconic. What’s more, Daft Punk chose to record this LP at home despite Virgin Records’ best efforts to swing them otherwise.
It’s the reason Homework took that particular name – Daft Punk were doing the bedroom producer dance 15 years before it became a faint possibility to the rest of the world.
A vision of the future realised with astounding clarity, the continuing shelf life of Homework has come down to it’s prediction of modern electronic trends.
High Fidelity has a home amongst the tail-end of a daytime, slow-burning house set.
Alive, the namesake for Daft Punk’s two live albums, would warp the minds of any modern trance audience.
Rock’n Roll is the messed up distortion fest your body craves during a festival-closing acid set.
Rollin’ & Scratchin’ is the overzealous, decimated electro Justice became famous for.
Truly great albums stand the test of time for a reason. We wish you a Happy Birthday, Homework, but 20 years is just the beginning.