Release Date: Sep 1, 2017
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Alternative Dance
James Murphy is a smart man of impeccable taste. We’ve known this for a while. He likes Niagara, The Creation, This Heat and other Record Collector catnip as documented on 2002’s Losing My Edge. He then made three LPs for his DFA label that mixed punk, funk and anything in-between. And on April 2, 2011, he decided to hang up his band’s turntables and guitars to concentrate on producing in deepest Brooklyn. But if Murphy is so bloody smart, why come back? And, most pointedly, why come back as LCD Soundsystem? However tasteful his borrowing, the magpie accusations against Murphy’s band have always held some water, however successful the results. .
Some things that went away and came back: Arrested Development, far-right politics, bum bags. The latter two examples were never a good idea but the fact remains that, even when something was good, the past should sometimes remain in the past. And so LCD Soundsystem fans are faced with a conundrum. James Murphy.
Last year, Suicide’s eerie 1979 song Dream Baby Dream started surfacing in all sorts of places. It soundtracked images of buildings buckling in Adam Curtis’s film HyperNormalisation, blasted through Andrea Arnold’s road-trip movie American Honey and, following Suicide frontman Alan Vega’s death in July, was resurrected live and on record by Pearl Jam, Savages and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler. LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy: ‘I was a joke. My wife said I was going to die’ Read more The spectre of Dream Baby Dream is haunting 2017 too, thanks to LCD Soundsystem, who open their fourth album – their first in seven years – with a phenomenal reimagining of Vega’s uncanny lullaby.
Post-hiatus records tend to be mediocre attempts to rejuvenate the enthusiasm of the past, which only result in disappointment and a longing for something nonexistent. Fans probably applied this to James Murphy.
Goodbyes are hard. Nothing ever lasts forever, but the sting remains, and knowing that it’s coming often does little to soothe the pain. In April 2011, it didn’t seem real that the puckish, enigmatic James Murphy was making good on his promise to end LCD Soundsystem with the world at his feet. The kid singing along to ‘All My Friends’, or those lost in tears and quiet despair captured the sorrow that runs throughout Shut Up And Play the Hits, the documentary filmed around their farewell concert at Madison Square Garden; at one point even Murphy himself, standing in a room full of no-longer-required equipment, breaks down and sobs.
Red flags are raised to half-mast when an iconic, beloved indie rock band throttles an album title into top gear pastiche, as we learned the hard way a few weeks ago. Just look at that fucking cover. The worst artwork of the year boasting the most irascible title of the year. The gleaming sarcasm of American Dream forebodes of empty cynicism .
Can they miss you even if you never really left? Six years after bidding their final farewell in a bittersweet, balloon-strewn blowout at Madison Square Garden, New York’s reigning dance-punk heroes have officially returned. Less officially, they’d already begun tiptoeing out again as early as 2015, releasing a one-off Christmas single before announcing a grander and more unequivocal comeback: There would be 2016 headlining gigs at Coachella and Lollapalooza, and a new studio album to follow. Given show business’s long, starry history of unretirements, the LCD revival might hardly register as news to some; get in line behind JAY-Z, Cher, and Steven Soderbergh, kids.
"Does it make you uncomfortable?" This— according to a recent interview with The New York Times— is what David Bowie asked LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy as he mulled over re-grouping his disco-punk ensemble five years after their triumphant Madison Square Garden swansong. Bowie's point was clear: if you're not out of your comfort zone, then why bother. Murphy's long been a man to defy convention.
Of course James Murphy fell for his own rock’n’roll myth. This is the guy who entered the realm of semi-stardom 15 years ago with “Losing My Edge,” a song that both poked fun at and paid tribute to music snobbery, that imagined a miracle man who witnessed every “seminal” underground event up-close, that used a list of cooler-than-thou names as an impenetrable shield. It made sense for him to concoct his very own “I was there” moment on April 2, 2011, when LCD Soundsystem played what was billed as their final show at the most storied venue in New York City.
The time has come, the time has come, the time has come today. LCD Soundsystem have finally returned from a mysterious five-year break-up they never quite explained, despite making a high-profile film documentary ostensibly designed for just that purpose. As rock & roll breakups go, it was about as believable as Cher's sixth farewell tour. But wherever these guys have been, what matters is that that they've returned at top strength.
Plenty of people are of the view that fewer than five years in retirement isn't long enough to justify the veritable parade that James Murphy made of the fact that he was calling time on the band; the title of the audio release of that last concert in New York City was The Long Goodbye - no kidding. Murphy didn.
LCD Soundsystem’s 2016 return was nothing short of stellar. Crowned by the twin beasts of Coachella and Glastonbury festivals, it was, to employ one cliche, as if they’d never been away; the celluloid sadness of 2011’s ‘Shut Up And Play The Hits’ a distant memory as crowds joyfully celebrated, well, ‘the hits’ themselves once more. But, once seen, those heart-wrenching scenes of a dejected James Murphy, speechless and on the verge of tears, can’t be forgotten.
Even after decades of being conditioned to view band “farewells” as marketing ploys for inevitable reunions, LCD Soundsystem’s short-lived breakup felt especially cynical. James Murphy always seemed too hip, too self-aware to succumb to such easy traps of commercialism, but he recently suggested that billing the band’s 2011 “final” show as such was just a ruse to sell out Madison Square Garden. If American Dream, their fourth studio album, is intended as a nostalgic cash-grab, however, it’s a piss poor one..
LCD Soundsystem had rarely put a foot wrong before they announced a huge farewell in 2011 – and then reformed, with what many felt was indecent haste, in 2015. But LCD main man James Murphy had a good excuse for bringing back the band: his idol, David Bowie, thought he should. (If you took Bowie’s passing badly, just imagine how Murphy must have felt, with his three albums riddled with Bowie tributes, and a dream-come-true contributor credit on Blackstar.) On this evidence, Bowie was not wrong.
I drop the needle on opening track “oh baby,” and it sounds like I’ve accidentally put on the Dunkirk soundtrack, with its ticking-clock pulses and muted cymbal. Alas, buoyant arpeggios creep in, followed by an unmistakably “LCD Soundsystem” bass riff. High-flying synths leave airy trails of sound behind them, while snares hiss and sail away into the blue skies above.
A glorious new chapter begins for James Murphy. The big-city music icon first became an unlikely hero for those who could see themselves as him, a studied perfectionist who built his reputation as a rock savant with a sort of self-mocking pretension. He took pride in having good taste, and everyone ….
When James Murphy did a Phil Collins and abruptly returned from self-inflicted semi-retirement, naysayers were quick to suggest that LCD did the one thing they swore they.
You were there, even if you weren’t. When LCD Soundsystem called it quits in 2011 with a pair of sold-out Madison Square Garden concerts, it was an ideal sendoff for the indie culture they’d mocked but also proudly represented. Emotional haircuts from across the country came to pay their respects. Arcade Fire showed up to sing background vocals; Aziz Ansari was seen crowd-surfing; high-low cultural sage Chuck Klosterman eventually narrated an award-winning documentary chronicling the whole occasion.
Well, of course he got the band back together. Going out on top — and then just staying that way? It would’ve seemed counter to the animating spirit of the thing. When James Murphy started LCD Soundsystem in 2002, the singer, producer and vintage-synth connoisseur introduced the group with “Losing My Edge,” an instant-classic disco-punk single in which Murphy, then in his early 30s, vividly described his fear of being made to look out of touch by a younger, savvier generation of music snobs.
When ‘Christmas Will Break Your Heart’ slipped into the world on December 24th, 2015, the rumours of an LCD Soundsystem return were rife and the internet fell over itself trying to get hot takes on Murphy’s un-retirement out into the world before clickbait took a day off for turkey. Confirmation of live performances soon followed and the inevitable consternation about tarnishing a legacy was unleashed. As the less prone to hyperventilation predicted, the unchecked emotional response has mutated with, firstly, fresh chances to witness the band’s joyous catalogue in the flesh and, secondly, talk of a new album.
Here’s the thing about most comebacks: They’re rarely worth it, except to the artist’s bank account. So skepticism, if not downright cynicism, precedes LCD Soundsystem’s first album since 2010, a feeling compounded by LCD’s announcement that it was playing its “final” concert in 2011. That’s a lot of baggage to shake off, and the arrival of “American Dream” (DFA/Columbia) may not be enough to do the job. The album gets personal, but in a more low-key way than ever before.
There’s a Pythagorean beauty, a classical harmony, to a trilogy. The geometry of a triangle mirrors the elegance of a narrative arc: beginning, middle, and end. Trilogies abound in popular culture, from Sophocles to J. R. R. Tolkien, George Lucas to Christopher Nolan, David Bowie to Kanye ….
LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy. Today's music fan knows that no band's breakup is permanent, and so the inevitable reunions are no longer greeted with skepticism or scorn. Yet when LCD Soundsystem reunited just five years after throwing themselves the massive going-away party documented in "Shut Up and Play the Hits," it left many fans of the Brooklyn dance-rockers with a sour taste.