It seems incredible that it is now well over a decade since Daft Punk unleashed the formidable dance smash single that is “Around The World”. The date was 1997 in fact, virtually a lifetime ago in musical terms, when the second wave of French dance music excellence well and truly landed. But when one investigates this song particularly, it is perhaps not so surprising, because in truth it could have been released at virtually any time since the onset of electronic music, such is its simplicity of purpose, but also timeless quality. What I am saying is that this track seems to transcend any genre, scene, age or definition. That it comes from a genre defining piece of work in Daft Punk’s simply phenomenal “Homework” long-player, and that it defined and kick started a revival of French dance music par excellence, is significant on a broader cultural level of course. But in a way this bigger piece of work is also almost rendered obsolete by the indelible charm and transcendence of this particular song.
If you found yourself grooving away in a Chicago warehouse in 1979 you could have heard this track throbbing out of the speakers and not been surprised, or at a rave off the London orbital in 1988, or an Ibizan boat party in 2006. It’s all the same, because it is in many ways a distillation of the essence of all great house music. So limited in its instrumentation, and yet so persistent in its incantations and invitations to dance. The bassline is epic of course, and famously compared to Chic’s Good Times, and yet it is merely the anchor for a swirling totality of sound that never astonishes and yet somehow seems to knock your socks off on every listen. From the bass-heavy keyboard rumblings that start the track, to the simply repeated vocoded vocal refrain that worms its way into your head and nestles there just enough to enhance the music and yet never grate or irritate. 144 times in the album cut to be precise, and 80 on the radio edit. Is there significance in the lower number’s relation to Phileas Fogg’s own famous journey around the world? Who knows, but it wouldn’t surprise me (though as for the 144 figure your guess is as good as mine, though I would hardly be surprised if these dance music alchemists hadn’t infused the track with some kind of numerical holy grail that us mere mortals will never discover or unravel).
But I digress once more, because the simple fact is that “Around the World “is an instant classic, evergreen and ever-lasting. A joy for deejays as it is mixable with virtually anything, you could almost imagine a whole night in a sweaty bass-bumping club, where the only song played all night, in one long edit, is this one, the beat interweaving all night around that central refrain, like some modern jazz freeform improvisation around a single notation. Regular readers of this blog will know the significance of the album that spawned it, but for now we should all take a global trip courtesy of those most brilliant Gallic adventurers, and be thankful for their vision. They bet Phileas Fogg that it couldn’t be done, but sometimes you have to look that little bit further than those around you. Daft Punk, seem to have such foresight in abundance. Maybe it is those helmets they wear!