Daft Punk

Alive 1997 (Virgin)

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Not everyone was thrilled with the new studio polish on Daft Punk's 2001 release Discovery. If the title suggested the record is "disco, very," some grouched that it was actually pop, as if that's necessarily a bad thing. Fans of 1997's Homework (a title that slyly relays the French group's taste for house and jack-yer-body syncopations while punning on the album's back-to-basics nature and the music's origins on -- possibly -- the home computer of someone who was supposed to be doing his algebra) doubtless wanted further validation of their raver musical preferences.

God or somebody heard their pleas. Musta been God, 'cause only she knows why Alive 1997 wasn't released three years ago. If we needed it then, it makes even more sense now. A single 45-minute-long track on the CD, Alive 1997 is a powerhouse performance. The French duo blend tracks and -- even better -- the textures and pulses from their studio album into a monstrous froth. Imagine subversive maniacs using synthesizers to control Godzilla, not to tame the savage beast but to whip the creature into a frenzy as he stomps his way through the city.

The city, by the way, is Birmingham (England, not Alabama). The recording captures the Britons' enthusiasm, a chorus of whoops and cheers that swells and recedes at the performers' cues. Police whistles in the audience supplement the disco thump. Like the Moonshine label's awesome Mixed Live series, Alive 1997 exposes the party experience as a pushing match of sorts between audience and performers, each urging the other to higher highs.

Why aren't there more recordings like this? Alive 1997 should silence critics of electronica who bemoan the absence of human elements in the music. Just listen to this! We've been there all along!

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