Rockin' Our Turntable: LCD Soundsystem

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on May 17, 2010 6:20PM

2010_05_This_Is_Happening.jpg If anyone can be credited or accused of bringing dance back to the rock and / or roll in the aughts, it is LCD Soundsystem bandleader James Murphy. "Bandleader" is, of course, a loose term since LCD Soundsystem's live set-up does indeed feature a steady backing band, but the group’s albums feature Murphy playing many, if not all, of the instruments. Murphy is a studio genius with a sharp wit and a big heart, and we suspect it’s the combination of these three qualities that make the band’s music so affecting.

The group’s debut album was impressive, but felt primarily like a collection of really great singles instead of acting as a cohesive statement. That development came on Sound Of Silver, the band’s sophomore effort, and arguably one of the finest albums of the last decade. Mixing Bowie, Kraftwerk and '70s / '80s NYC disco and club scene elements into an emotional stew driven by an honest lyrical approach, Murphy constructed an album that would be hard to top.

With This Is Happening, an album Murphy has intimated will be the last under the LCD Soundsystem moniker, we feel he has at the least created a piece that rivals, if not surpasses, his previous accomplishments. There is nothing as soaring or as immediately engaging and satisfying as Silver’s anthemic rumination on aging “All My Friends,” but Murphy seems to realize that by including “You Wanted A Hit,” a song that denies that the band should even be seen as hit-makers even while it lays its lyrical approach over a melody and rhythm that is sure to hypnotize the listener onto the dance floor. Elsewhere, Murphy stretches his vocals into new areas, augmenting his usual shouting and chanting with honest to god so-human-they’re-sweet vocals on songs like “All I Want” and “I Can Change.”

The one thread that ties all three of LCD Soundsystem’s albums together is Murphy’s ability to stitch whole songs out of his influences without seeming like he’s ripping them off. “All I Want” rips the Robert Fripp guitar lead from David Bowie’s “Heroes” wholesale, but by recontextualizing it over what sounds like the piano and rhythms of The Velvet Undergrounds “Waiting For My Man” Murphy pays homage while simultaneously creating something all his own, a poignant love song about longing. It’s slightly oblique, but Murphy’s humanity and yearning come through clear and strong.

This Is Happening doesn’t have a single weak song. Not a moment lags. Nothing comes across as false. Murphy’s mastery of melody and rhythm interlocks seamlessly with lyrics that are at times a bit silly, at times rather touching, and always honest. If This Is Happening is truly the last LCD Soundsystem record then Murphy can rest easy knowing he’s going out on an incredibly high note of accomplishment.

LCD Soundsystem play Metro on May 26 and headline the Pitchfork Music Festival on July 17.