So many great new albums have come out since my last post I barely know where to start, but a good place would probably be This Is Happening, the new LCD Soundsystem album that came out May 17. If you don’t have a copy yet, that’s an error I suggest you correct as soon as possible.
This Is Happening, the follow up to their 2007 masterpiece Sound of Silver, is an amazing achievement in its own right and a serious contender for my favorite record of 2010. As many artists tend to do when following up an album many deemed “perfect,” they try to rise to the occasion by expanding their sound and taking creative chances. And as often happens, the resulting record is not as consistent as its predecessor, but its high points exceed almost all of their creator’s previous successes. “I Can Change” and “All I Want” are textbook examples of these highs, and currently my #1 and #2 favorite songs of the year.
Another cliché of the follow up album, “the polarizing lead single,” is also in play with “Drunk Girls,” the lyrically quotable, but musically annoying “jock jam” that has expanded the group’s popularity with the bro set but become the central focus of those claiming the album’s inferiority to previous works. I don’t dislike “Drunk Girls” or “One Touch,” the second and third tracks on the album, but in light of the genius that transpires from track four on, their inclusion is a bit suspect, especially so early on where it derails the momentum set by magnum opus opener “Dance Yrself Clean.”
It’s going to take a few days to fully digest this, but the first single from the third and possibly final LCD Soundsystem LP just hit the web a few hours ago. I don’t really expect the as-yet-unnamed album to be as good as their last album, 2007’s Sound of Silver, which was my #1 album of the last decade, so I’m tempering my expectations and just trying to enjoy this for what it is. But what it seems to be so far is a whole lot of fun.
If you’ve read my list of the Top 50 Albums of 2000-2009, then you’re already aware that I’m a pretty big LCD Soundsystem fan, and if you haven’t, get ready for a major spoiler alert – their most recent album, 2007’s Sound of Silver,is #1 on the list.
According to a recent interview with NME, the group finally has a new album coming out this year, most likely in April, and front man James Murphy has said, “it will definitely be better than the other two.” YAY! In a post on the group’s website titled basically we’re announcing a tour, Murphy announced an accompanying world tour, “we’re going on tour for a long time, in a lot of places, around the planet, for longer in support of this one record than The Beatles ever toured in total, and we’ll likely be close to you at some point.”
There is one minor detail I almost forgot to mention, they have also hinted that this may be their last album and last tour, like ever. BOO! So take my sound advice on this one – GET YOUR ASS TO ONE OF THESE SHOWS! The tour will include gigs at the Coachella, Bonnaroo, Pitchfork, and Sasquatch music festivals. In the meantime, you can get a peek at the recording of the new album over at their YouTube.
Nothing from the new album has been released yet, but here’s “Bye Bye Bayou” to tide you over and get you pumped up for your Saturday night! It’s a cover song that was a special release for last year’s Record Store Day, and it was criminally overlooked in my humble opinion.
Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ‘cause, what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talking about the Murph here. Sometimes there’s a man, and well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s James Murphy, in Williamsburg.
Sarcasm. Cynicism. Irony. Meta-humor. Anti-pretentiousness. Booze. Amphetamines. Lackadaisical lyricism. Dirty words. Dirtier beats. Guitars and turntables. Dance music and punk rock. Nothing captured the post-millennial Brooklyn zeitgeist quite like LCD Soundsystem. In the borough of cool, they were the coolest, and it seemed like they weren’t even trying.
It may have been evolution or perhaps it was an epiphany, but at some point after 2005, Murphy’s attitude towards writing changed. The icily distant demeanor born on “Losing My Edge” melted away, revealing a cranky and opinionated, but passionate and caring, human being with a lifetime of colorful experiences and complicated relationships to share. Exhibit A: “All My Friends”. Exhibit B: “Someone Great”. Two of the greatest songs of our young century, totally unlike anything heard in the previous. Upon first hearing them, it was immediately apparent that conventional ideas of what dance music was supposed to be no longer applied.
On Sound of Silver opener “Get Innocuous!” a precedent is set, a defining tableau. It starts with a simple, repetitive loop, then adds another, then another, the track slowly builds, picking up speed as new and exciting sounds enter the mix, the beat kicks into high gear, going faster and faster until… BAM! Dance party! Everything after that is pretty much a blur until you come to your senses 7 minutes later. You’re not quite sure of what just happened, but you definitely liked it.
You expect to overcome this attention deficit on repeated listens, but it’s harder than it seems. The beats pleasantly overwhelm, but the lyrics are even easier to get lost in. Vividly specific enough to elicit an emotional response, but still vague enough to be easily relatable, Murphy’s memories are a gateway drug to your own. This isn’t the thinking man’s electronic music; it’s existentialist party music, unafraid of dabbling in life’s big questions and the world’s major problems, but with the good sense to not provide any answers or solutions.
The album’s lead single, “North American Scum”, provides a perfect example of these conflicting elements that define LCD Soundsystem’s brilliance and relevance. The meaning of patriotism in post-9/11 America was a constant artistic theme throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, but this is a refreshingly original take on the concept. The liberal notion of being embarrassed to be American while traveling abroad is expressed with hilariously biting sarcasm. Mistakes are acknowledged and right-wing Christian ideals are rejected, but ultimately, the message is that North America in general (and New York City in particular) is still the greatest place in the world.
Murphy’s preoccupation with the haters was obviously deep rooted. He has even said in interviews that he self-identifies as a “lifetime failure.” While his twisted sense of humor and propensity for self-deprecation are still critical parts of the lyricism, it no longer defines his music, and he’s much better off for it, as are we. From their very first single, LCD Soundsystem sounded like the promise of a brave new world and 5 years later, Sound of Silver delivered. Who knew ambition could look so cool?