They’re back! The Brooklyn, US band fronted by the brilliant James Murphy, who re-grouped in beginning 2016 finally gift us with their 4th studio album, a long awaited 7 year since ‘This Is Happening’. Headlining Coachella, Lollapalooza and more festivals along the way last year, we’ve had to wait a bit longer than what was planned for ‘American Dream’ which was originally set for 2016, however the band as well as Murphy continuously kept fans updated and took time from their tour to finish it off.
Describing this as the best he’s felt about an LCD LP ever, the dance-punk/rock/electronic art band has blown up since its debut “Losing My Edge” in 2002. People’s attachment to Murphy started to grow, his microphone and distinctive voice followed by a great arrangement of musicians that have mixed genres like no one before. It’s been quite the ride for Murphy since the band split after it’s goodbye show in 2011 at Madison Square Garden in NYC. Since then he’s been involved in various projects, from producing, directing to opening a wine bar, he’s built up a lot to say especially since the death of his idols such as Bowie and Cohen, the US election and fans’ response to recent LCD news. ‘American Dream’ starts with “Oh Baby”, a tribute to Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream”, a song filled with synths dancing around Murphy’s voice, reaching a climax before calming itself to its texture filled goodness.
One of my favorite track of the album, “Other Voices” touches on the anxiety of time passing by and the change in our lives, discussing the feelings of being young, naïve and new to the world. Whilst some lines seem to directly refer to the 2016 election, its aftermath and shit-show, another theme explored is how people with different viewpoints cannot come together, only shutting each other down. The baseline is the spine of the song, mixed with different percussions that follow a rolling rhythm, synths and Nancy kicking ass to bring this song to new depths. The song finishes on a line that Bowie once told Murphy on whether he should get LCD back together, Bowie asking “Does it make you uncomfortable?”, Murphy answered “Yeah” – “Good – it should. You should be uncomfortable” replied Bowie.
“I Used To” talks an ending relationship, I love the energy and space this song fills up with the base and synths again working together with a gritty guitar passage at the end, before beautifully closing another great track. “Change Yr Mind” looks at how Murphy reacted throughout the event of LCD breaking up back in 2010, feeling like maybe he was too old to perform, with nothing left to say and his general depression with fans which we’ve seen he greatly cares about.
“How Do You Sleep?” is a close to 10-minutes, centre-piece of the album, wild trip calculated in its build with menacing percussions and bass synth before coming together in what is a monstrous tune. The story of this song takes aim at former co-founder of his label DFA, Tim Goldsworthy, which ditched the project alongside many other problems, resulting in what is a gob-smacking response to his actions, taunting and swiping but without ever losing control of what he intends to say.
All released as singles, “Tonite”, “Call The Police” and “American Dream” are perfect examples of how good this album is. Murphy in “Tonite” challenges the urgency seen in pop-music of making the most of tonight, this idea that everyone should make the most of everything, going against the carpe diem, representing himself as a pre-internet/middle-aged memoire: “Oh I’m a reminder, The hobbled veteran of the disk shop inquisition, Set to parry the cocksure of mem-stick filth, With my own late era middle-aged ramblings”.
With “Call The Police”, we’re referenced to New Order, Brian Eno and David Bowie, alongside a vibrant, electronic rock tune which questions the new US presidency, the trust we put on the police, our notion of love and a general anguish/coming-of-age feel to it. “American Dream” slows down and holds melancholia close to its synth-wavy/dreamy feel, talking about a man waking up from a one-night stand, contemplating his age, life and if the American dream even exists.
Another one of my favorite tracks is “Emotional Haircut”, I love how the guitar and synths work in the background whilst the bass and drums/percussions take charge. The story talks of an old rock guy who tries to stay trendy/young with a new hair-do but this doesn’t change the fact that life has passed, you’ve got numbers of dead guys on your phone, a past that can’t be erased but in the end, it erupts to remind him that he’s still alive in the end.
The album closes off with “Black Screen”, what is believed to be an homage to David Bowie, showing grief of his passing, awe of the friendship they had, regretting not more was done of their time together. Bowie had a big influence on Murphy as a mentor and of LCD’s regrouping, whilst both artist kept close ties as Murphy would help on percussions for Bowie’s final album ‘Blackstar’. Overall, the album is full of contagious upbeat groove with tones of angst, confusion and anxiety, mixing perfectly alongside toxic guitars as well as synths. The bass is down, giving such a dark/gritty tone to the songs whilst the percussions bring flavor and disco to the clouds.
Even though we see Murphy’s influence more focused on endings and not beginnings, LCD Soundsystem still manages to produce infectious dancing as well as catchy tunes which will last a lifetime.