Neon Bibles: Can Daft Punk live up to the cult legacy of TRON? Will the film sequel dilute the bands oevre? s oevre?

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To say that Daft Punk’s score for TRON: Legacy is the most anticipated film score in recent memory is, perhaps, to damn it with faint praise. Usually, the soundtrack of a film, even a blockbuster, isn’t hyped more than the film itself. TRON: Legacy’s score by the duo of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo arguably is. To put it in more appropriate tech-geek terms, the premature leak of Daft Punk’s soundtrack may have been the first time that illegal downloaders scrambled to grab a rip of music mostly set at an Adagio pace. There are several reasons for the massive prerelease buzz. For one, it’s been five years since Human After All, Daft Punk’s last release of original material (there’s been a remix album, compilation, and a live record in the meantime). That’s a big deal, considering that the French house music duo remains the face of electronic music, even though the two wear space helmets all the time. Secondly, the marriage of Daft Punk’s music and TRON:Legacy’s visuals seems like a perfect match: The pair has repeatedly acknowledged its debt to the adorably clunky cyber-aesthetics of the original TRON film from 1982—all the way down to the black space and neon minimalism. Certainly diehard Daft Punk fans who are expecting another Discovery or Homework are going to be disappointed. The album is decidedly a film score, as opposed to a soundtrack release, which is usually just a mix of songs used in the movie. To properly inform electronica devotees, Daft Punk might have affixed a warning label to the front: THIS ALBUM FEATURES ORCHESTRAL MANEUVERS IN THE DARK—LITERALLY. So, yes there is an “Overture” and a “Nocturne,” but instead of sounding stiff, one gets the sense that, after spinning discs and turning knobs for almost 20 years, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo are having a blast getting to control the London Symphony Orchestra. The songs still retain some of Daft Punk’s minimalism; this is hardly the maximalist, high-drama stuff of, say, Hans Zimmer. “Arena,” “Rinzler,” and “The Game Has Changed” all feature extensive use of analog synthesizers, and nicely recall Wendy Carlos’ excellent electronic score for the original movie. At least Daft Punk throws a few dance-y, delectable bones to its fans—the low-key, Moroder-esque “End of the Line,” the surprisingly funky “Tron:Legacy (End Titles),” and, especially, the energetic, four-on-the-floor throwback “Derezzed.” Popular artists, of course, have been crafting movie scores for years, with mixed results. Queen fans originally thought the band’s soundtrack for Flash Gordon, another style-over-substance sci-fi flick, was too score-y, yet Flash’s fist-pumping theme has had a much longer shelf life than the movie itself. Despite the orchestrations, there is plenty for open-minded Daft Punk fans to enjoy. If they need grief counseling, the disheartened among them should get in touch with wizened Zep-heads who endured the grating night blues Jimmy Page crafted for 1982’s Death Wish 2