LCD Soundsystem This Is Happening track by track
, March 25th, 2010 23:21
Just like the previous LCD Soundsystem album, this one will apparently be their last. This time, though, you sense it actually might, and possibly should. Although on forming back in 2002 they only intended to stick around until a younger star showed up for them to hide behind, Murphy’s crew of production talent and back-line musicians improbably ended up doing it all themselves. In the process, their taut reconfigurations of disco and punk, live dance beats and hard electronics improbably invigorated and defined a whole new strain of noughties pop and club life: where once there were beery indie discos, now there are proper clubs playing great music; where dance music had become the preserve of purists, now it’s open to all-comers. What’s more, you could actually hear their weird, ambitious, boldly humourous and emotive songs on the radio and in shops. In short: they did it all.
But if the world’s caught up with LCD Soundsystem, that’s not to say they’ve nothing left to offer. It’s often overlooked just how awkward their sound is, a characteristic that’s perhaps the result of Murphy’s workaholic attention to detail: every ounce of every track does something vital – from that lyrical ear for the absurd, to those body-hijacking electronics, right down to the skittery hi-hats that subtly sweep you up – and usually in unexpected ways. This is still a band with no obvious constituency: they’re too rhythm-driven for rock kids, too ragged for dance smoothies, and too pop for hipsters or chin-strokers. When Murphy cited as his inspiration “record[s] that strove a bit more, risked a bit more humiliation”, he identified the spirit that’s endeared them to music lovers of every persuasion, while leaving their tin-eared and lead-limbed neighbours behind.
If 2005's LCD Soundsystem was a set of great tracks that didn't quite know what they were doing together, on 2007’s Sound of Silver their cute tics were superseded by irresistible emotional depth, sharper songwriting and compulsive rhythm; the near-universal praise spoke for itself. So what next, when you’ve nothing left to prove? Prove it again, differently. Usually when a band tells you their latest, yet-to-be-aired effort is “the best album we’ve ever made” it’s code for “we’ve lost it completely, but at that mega-volume playback in the expensive studio it felt like we’d got away with it”. This isn’t one of those records. The third, still-untitled LCD Soundsystem album contains a run of heavyweight hits that compress the best elements of their previous work, topped and tailed by some intriguing slow-burners. Parts of it sound misshapen or half-baked on a first spin; but after a few listens, it may take medical intervention to stop you playing it daily. It's great, but not quite gold.
Dance Yrself Clean
Limbering up, ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ suggests a rather twee new direction; if nothing else, Murphy taking vocal inspiration from Kermit the Frog should stave off further accusations of plagiarism from Mark E Smith. Once it kicks into metronomic action, though, it’s colossal: soundsystem-heavy bass-synth bounce, infectiously strained, sometimes falsetto vocals and a slo-mo disco undertow produce a similar sense of robotic possession to ‘Someone Great’.
Here’s where your correspondent burst out laughing, realising just how good this album is going to get. A knockout dance craze song that’s as daft as the Wayne’s World theme and as funky as Nilsson’s ‘Jump Into The Fire’, with a refreshing air of 70s Euro modernism blowing through. It’s about drunk girls and drunk boys, dancing and waking up together. “Drunk girls!” it chants. And “drunk boys!” Great pop, and the tightest example yet of their own patented punk-funk r’n’r boogie. You might spot faint traces of Can’s ‘I Want More’ if you had a millisecond to think about it, but you don’t. Somewhere between a harder ‘Daft Punk…’ and a hopped-up ‘All My Friends’.
A sparky pulse announces an electro-disco hit as strong as the best DFA 12”s, with a weird, whistly hook, anarchic bloopy backing and clattertrap percussion all thrown mercilessly in. Too crass to be cool, too handbag to be hipster, this is total body music that’ll get ravers old and new loping into action. “One touch is never enough”, warns Murphy in two-tone vox, before reassuring us that “No one is dangerous”.
All I Want
Wonderful art-pop built from soaring rounds of vocals and E-bowed guitar (for the non-plank-spankers: that’s what makes the hook on Bowie’s ‘Heroes’) over itchy, upful rhythm. Catches you off-guard and doesn’t loosen its grip. The first two Eno albums are an obvious reference point here; few bands would or should be bold enough to touch those records, but Murphy knows how to construct a song strong enough to strain away from structurally, and how to use sonic abstraction to heighten emotional connection. Nevertheless, it snatches defeat from the jaws of victory when it dissolves into a cacophony of wobbly kosmische keyboard nonsense that sounds like something Dieter Moebius’s dog coughed up. Perhaps we’ll get used to it. Or perhaps they should’ve given Tim Goldsworthy a call.
I Can Change
This is more like it: heavyweight pop, with not an ounce of fat. A proper chorus sprinkled with stardust jangles; Murphy’s best ever vocal performance; a subtly hypnotic synth pulse worthy of Lindstrøm; a ridiculously catchy song you can imagine hitting the Top 10 with the right female singer. Other people’s records don’t have gently surreal hooks like these; these are the surprises we’ve come to expect from LCD Soundsystem.
You Wanted a Hit
Though the self-referential lyrics give you pause at first (“You wanted a hit, but we don’t do hits. . . no obviously we’re never fun” etc) this is an appealingly slow-cooked, prowling piece of disco pop. Tight but spacey, when astringent guitar clangs in after five minutes you might notice it has a similar dynamic to Grauzone’s ‘Eisbar’, only slinkier. The minor-key “We won’t be your baby anymore” refrain keeps you hooked; it's a hit.
An odd but admirable choice for a first single: pounding disco with every forgotten trick in the book thrown in, as Murphy jabbers anxiously in the background. The one-word chorus is built on those “booooo!” sounds that go right through you, the ones they used to stick on the disco records that really freaked out the homophobes. Call and response nonsense, conga and cabasa, a two-note bass riff that tightens the grip, and heavenly echoed harp strums all play a part in its sensurround glory. Imagine ‘Beat Connection’ with a rainbow shot through the middle. It’s not easy, but try.
Somebody’s Calling Me
A seedy plod in the mould of Iggy’s ‘Nightclubbing’. Seems slight at first, but strong enough melodically to get under your skin and stay there, crawling around.
Continuing the homecoming theme of their previous two album closers, ‘The Great Release’ and ‘New York I Love You’, ‘Home’ displays a softness slightly reminiscent of Talking Heads’ ‘This Must Be The Place’. Cluster-y cosmic keys at a peppier pace and expansive vocal harmonies lend the grouch-Zen lyrics - “If you’re afraid of what you need / Look around you – you’re surrounded / it won’t get any better” – an empathic tone. A plump duvet of a song.