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LCD Soundsystem was the project of James Murphy,
a member of New York's production duo DFA (Death From Above) with Tim Goldsworthy. He entered the disco-punk fray with the
double-CD LCD Soundsystem (Capitol, 2005), an album that also includes
all their early singles.
The core of the album is represented by the dancefloor fun of
Yeah (nine minutes of primal Giorgio Moroder-ian attack and funk-jazz riffs that escalates to a manic degree of frenzy),
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House (the rhythmic propulsion of the Talking Heads fronted without David Byrne's neurotic twitching),
Disco Infiltrator (a tapping hip-hop with doo-wop vocals),
Losing My Edge (pure funk energy with zero melodic development),
On Repeat (a lengthy dub-jazz sarabande with atonal guitar),
Give It Up (intricate bass-heavy funk-punk),
Yr City's A Sucker (minimalist iteration ad libitum of an elementary
There are certainly rather tedious repetition of beats, melodies and arrangements that have been around for decades (Tribulations.
On the other hand,
Murphy is not restricted to the fashionable electroclash style. He unleashes
the vibrant power-pop of Movement and croons the moronic ballad
Never As Tired As When I Wake Up.
Neither is too entertaining, but they set the stage for future stylistic
Furthermore, some tracks are at least partially original and innovative, and
not merely a revival of the late 1970s
(the sleazy African rap of Thrills, the surreal vocal harmonies with
apocalyptic crescendo of Great Release, the
more subliminal shuffle of Too Much Love, the surprisingly visceral
punk-jazz explosion of Tired).
Ultimately, the album asserts the primacy of the producer over the group:
Murphy alone can do more and better than most of the entire electroclash crowd
The 45-minute 45:33, ostensibly a soundtrack for jogging, is an
encyclopedia of electronic dance music, from Eurodisco to disco-punk
to chill-out house music, as well as one of his artistic peaks.
This colossal piece was later included in 45:33 (2007).
A minimalist iteration of simple figures on out-of-tune piano and
archaic electronics constitutes the launching pad for an old-fashioned
funk beat with vocals. When this fades out, its remnant is a piano figure
that leads to a lengthy sequence in which that figure is transposed to
xylophone and synthesizer. The beat becomes a sleek, pounding polyrhythm.
A trombone duets with frenzied electronic keyboards.
The speed doubles and duets with
distorted Kraftwerk-ian vocals.
The sixth movement wipes out everything that the previous movements have
created with a delicate electronic texture, halfway between
falling snowflakes and a Bach fugue.
Sound of Silver (DFA, 2007) marks an improvement in terms of both
musicianship and concept. The songs are longer and more complex while at the
same time being more cohesive and organic.
James Murphy is one of the few musicians after Brian Eno who can make the masses both dance and rock. This album does so
over such a broad range of repertory formats that eventually represents
a fresco of musical graffiti.
The propulsive Get Innocuous is the most derivatives of the British 1980s.
The sensual funk of Time to Get Away harks back to the 1970s and to Prince.
The futuristic vignette Someone Great
(a short portion of 45:33)
boasts a pop melody worthy of vintage Brian Eno and Todd Rundgren.
However, soon the retro' project gets as serious as a post-modernist novel.
The mildly anthemic North American Scum and Watch the Tapes
borrow the driving progression
from the Velvet Underground
like so many of the
new-wave acts did, and the psychotic vocals from new-wave bands such as the
Talking Heads and the
with the latter song approaching the shamanic emphasis of Suicide.
And Us vs Them (another highlight) is pure Talking Heads-ian techno-funk mayhem, augmented with ethnic percussion and a sunny pop aria.
All My Friends is perhaps the most original of these revisitations
of the masters, and the album's standout.
Over a pounding piano pattern that could come from a minimalist piece by Steve
Reich, the half-sung recitation exhudes the urban neurosis of
Lou Reed without the decadent overtones
and the existential angst of the Cure without
the apocalyptic overtones.
This seems to be like James Murphy's ultimate manifesto.
The last two tracks sound out of context.
Sound of Silver is an electronic percussive jam, a robotic ballet.
Aware of the impressive amount of music packed in the album,
Murphy takes the liberty of ending it with a grand
waltzing ballad in the style of Broadway show-tunes, New York I Love You.
Despite continuously reinventing itself, the album never feels eccentric or
challenging. It radiates the majestic calm of a classic.
Murphy was already 40 when he penned
This is Happening (DFA, 2010), and suddenly his limitations came to
the fore: his lengthy high-tech ruminations were simply rehashing
synth-pop, dance-punk and disco-music of the 1970s and 1980s.
And his lame shout was certainly not making the imitations more appealing
than the originals.
The nine-minute hysterical threnody Dance Yrself Clean harks back to the Talking Heads' fusion of funk, electronics and rock (alas, minus David Byrne's neurotic genius).
The eight-minute Home is emblematic of the general problem with Murphy's
tactic: a slightly intricate beat is looped and repeated with minimal variations
for a long time so that the vocals can sing a rather pedestrian melody over
and over again and take their time in doing so.
The throbbing eight-minute One Touch is pure fluff, and derivative of the age of Eddy Grant's Electric Avenue (1982).
The (thankfully much shorter) single Drunk Girls crosses over into boogie-rock of the new wave (a` la Modern Lovers) with insistent tribal drumming.
The same kind of methodic beat, leaning this time towards the disco, propels
the decadent croon of All I Want, a bit like early
The very slow jazzy seven-minute Somebody's Calling Me sounds like
a very slow cover of Donovan's Mellow Yellow.
Plagiarizing the past classics is not necessarily a bad idea. The problem is
that Murphy dilutes his imitations to the point that artistic pretenses
border on self-mockery.
What could have been a sprightly power-pop ditty, You Wanted A Hit,
is stretched to become a midtempo nine-minute jam (three minutes of minimalist
intro, an instrumental duet between atonal guitar and videogame noise).
Regardless of the ambitions, I Can Change is just a
trite ballad crooned by a bad singer and wrapped in electronic effects.
Pow Pow is eight minutes of spoken-word (or, alternatively, of really
slow and plain rapping) over the most trivial of beats.
This music must be incredibly easy to make.
The live albums The London Sessions (2011) and
The Long Goodbye (2014)
closed the career of LCD Soundsystem.
However, the band was resurrected for the single
Christmas Will Break Your Heart (2015) and the album
American Dream (Columbia, 2017), which turned out to be their biggest
Sounding like a nostalgic tribute to the neurotic new-wave of the late 1970s,
it opens with the throbbing synth and dreamy lullaby Oh Baby
(an explicit reference to Suicide's most
famous anthem), followed by
the seven-minute Afro-funk orgy a` la Talking Heads of Other Voices,
I Used To, an impeccable if sinister/martial imitation of
Change Yr Mind manages to fuse both the dissonant no-wave funk of the Contortions and the hypnotic disco-music of Giorgio Moroder.
How Do You Sleep? sounds like a nine-minute disco remix of vintage
Emotional Haircut tries to bridge
Romeo Void's Never Say Never
and Killing Joke.
Unfortunately, there are serious missteps, starting with the
dance ballad American Dream and ending with the worst offender, a
meandering twelve-minute Black Screen, ostensibly a tribute to
David Bowie but lame even by the standards
of Bowie's most self-indulging material.
James Murphy is increasingly attracted by the sound of the rock guitar,
the very instrument that he avoided on the early albums.