Daft Punk

Discovery (Virgin/Daft Club)

Like all good French boys, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo like to take things slowly, allowing time to savor the finer things in life. It's been eight years since the Parisian duo adopted the Daft Punk brand in order to tinker with the then-underground club sounds booming across the Left Bank. In that time, they've released one single (1993's "The New Wave") and one full-length album (Homework, in 1997). Now, after a four-year Daft drought, Thom and Guy have rolled out their second volley.

Apparently, maturing at the rate of a fine wine has its advantages, as Discovery's fourteen tracks are the band's most substantial to date. That's fortunate: Daft Punk needed to re-emerge with strong material, now that Mirwais has nicked the duo's trademark retro-techno-electro beats and spliced them into remixes for Madonna.

Discovery features the same big beats that earned Daft Punk gold with "Da Funk" in the mid-'90s; the single "One More Time" (the first of two tracks to feature vocals by club legend Romanthony) is particularly bangin'. But this time around, Daft Punk pays increased attention to genuine song structure, an approach that's evident in the shaggy rollick of "Digital Love" and the moody weeper "Something About Us." Two romper stompers, "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and "High Life," are likely candidates for clubland singles, while the tonal '80s instrumental "Nightvision" is one of many quiet tracks that make Discovery perfect hanging-around-the-house house music. The pair even work harps into a delicate dance track called "Voyager," probably a fantasy soundtrack for the deep space probes of the same name.

Unlike "Music Sounds Better With You," a huge 1998 hit for Bangalter's side-project, Stardust, Discovery aims to be more than simple party music. For one thing, it's an online smorgasbord: a "Daft Club" card in the CD case grants access to software goodies tucked away on the band's daftclub.com Web site. Such interactive shenanigans are just the kind of smarty-pants fun we've come to expect of clubbers from the Continent.

 
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