Why Daft Punk Have to Keep the Masks on
It's too late now, and it's probably been too late for the last 10 years. Daft Punk, the French electronic duo who has singlehandedly dominated the press for the last month, will be wearing their robot suits for the rest of their lives. There will never be a reveal, a coming out, or a change of tone. Frat-trance superstar Deadmau5 has, for the most part, removed the cybernetic mouse head. KISS wrote Lick It Up and removed the face paint on MTV. But even now, when Homework is a 16-year old album, Daft Punk will always be a gold helmet and a silver helmet.
If Daft Punk wanted to, they could've removed their uniforms in the early 2000s without much fanfare or drama. They could still headline festivals, and tour with a giant pyramid, and they could still make gleaming, romantic, semi-vintage dance music they've become famous for. But that didn't happen, and the cover of the just-released Random Access Memories is emblazoned with the same severe iconography. It's hard to think of any outfit in music that's stayed so relentlessly dedicated to a theme over multiple decades. GWAR? Maybe The Residents?
It's clear that Daft Punk's aesthetic legacy, and PR maneuvers is born out of the retro-futuristic novelty, and perhaps they keep the suits on simply for purposes of reputation. But that only goes so far, the fact of the matter is that Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homen-Christo are almost 40, and have been hiding their public appearance for a very, very long time. The last 12 years has culturally solidified Daft Punk as a band of robots. For every show, every commercial, every photoshoot, these two men have accepted the fate of dressing up in what looks to be a very sweaty, uncomfortable outfit. That is a profound dedication, and it can't be written off as simple frivolity. Why do they make this sacrifice? Clearly Daft Punk feel they benefit from the robots, and that might make them the most self-conscious band in the world.
It seems innocuous enough, but what would the impact be if there was a human face behind a song like "Get Lucky"? Would it feel the same? Or would be just a little less intoxicating? Is it easier to fall for something graciously pulpy and populist like roller-rink disco when it comes to us from cartoon characters? And as real life humans, is it ever hard not to blush making this music? Daft Punk's only resistance to the goof is their masks. The faceless, nameless robots soak up all the attention and enthusiasm, and critics and fans alike start to regard Daft Punk on their own terms, in their own universe. Essentially Daft Punk wipe away any qualms of plasticity by engaging in maximum goof. Saying "One More Time" is too silly profoundly misses the point. But without the masks, it might become a lot easier. Without the masks, Daft Punk might be a hated band.