Daft Punk and the virtues of mystery

For all public-facing entities, the career of the French duo is a study in the uses of remoteness

28 February 2021 - 19:45 By Janan Ganesh

I so wanted to write that “Nothing in their career became them like the leaving of it”. Daft Punk, the electronic music pair, retired last week with a message that was, comme d’habitude, wordless, faceless and sumptuous. But their career became them quite enough, thanks. Over three decades, the Parisians took a problem — how to infuse synthetic sound with feeling — and solved it to the tune of six Grammys and legion sales. When French president Emmanuel Macron hosted former US president Donald Trump for Bastille Day in 2017, the army band struck up a medley of their hits.

Lasting success is rare enough. It is the retention of mystique all the while that distinguished Daft Punk as precious beings in a chatty age. Headgear — first masks, then chrome helmets — meant their “public appearances” fulfilled neither word in that phrase. Naked-faced, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo can ride the metro undisturbed in their own town. (Imagine Adele on the London Underground.) There is likely no-one more famous who enjoys more privacy. Given their less than Stakhanovite output — nine years without a gig — silence was a risk. Their punishment: matchless credibility...

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