Part of the responsibility of being a fan of LCD Soundsystem is having some dialogue with coolness. Whether Murphy & Co. accepted the mantle or not, from somewhere in 2005 through 2011, LCD Soundsytem was the coolest band on earth. They expressed the millennial’s ironic detachment of a world embroiled in two wars, the slow realization that the financial infrastructure was falling apart all around you, and what it meant to have to live through that. The only people you had to rely on now that the world was imploding were your friends and the only thing left to do was dress up and dance yrself clean. LCD Soundsytem lived through catharsis, building tension through super-long pop songs that they had nonchalantly stolen from your favorite artists, and then letting it all go. Which is exactly what they did in 2011 when they broke up for good. Except that it wasn’t, which is stupid, but that’s a whole different thing.
What we have now is American Dream, an album that completely forgoes the need to be cool. With a seven year interim, a lot has changed. The world still needs some comfort, but what it doesn’t need is a bunch of cool people telling us that everything will be all right. We need someone to quietly panic with us that it’s not. And fortunately for us, James Murphy has heeded that call quietly and distinctly. American Dream is what LCD Soundsystem sounds like without the fear of losing their edge to all the kids who are actually really really nice. They aren’t really nice, they are actual fucking Nazis roaming the streets with tiki torches. So this isn’t the time for a disco ball or quaint Banksy-esque statement on big brother; it’s not even dress up in a tuxedo for no reason cool. This is the time to slap the name of the band and album over some clip art so we can get to the music. And people fucking hate it.
And this is the part that’s most shocking. Once you get to the music, you find that it’s a really solid album. Each song is exactly what you’d expect from LCD Soundsystem. It’s not like they stopped using synths, or started sampling whoever the least cool artist is right now, or played chunky 5th chords in drop D while singing about photographs (is it sill cool to make fun of Nickelback?). LCD Soundsytem LCD Soundsystems on american dream. “oh baby” builds the tension that “call the police” and the title track provide the denouement to, while “black screen” provides a beautiful outro. What more could you want? You want 10-minute dance tracks? You got it. You want vague odes to bands that no one really listens to anymore, if they ever did at all? That’s still here.
What’s not here is any attempt at all of being cool. Frankly, some of these songs might have passed as Enema of the State-era Blink-182 songs. You can practically hear Murphy singing “work sucks, I know,” blowing Marxism to pieces at the same time. The point being that LCD Soundsystem’s popularity, like much of the last century or so, has been entirely built on image. That they were good is only secondary to the fact that they played in Brooklyn a lot, which was (is) a very expensive and very cool place to be.
But I like this James Murphy. Maybe better than the tuxedoed James Murphy saying goodbye to his fans, or the James Murphy that maybe drunkenly only remembered to introduce the bass player when he was opening for Pixies on Long Island. This James Murphy is a lot more like the Nilsson of Nilsson Schmilsson, fresh out of bed with a robe, a questionable pipe and not a fuck to give in the world. And as he’s been saying in a few interviews, maybe he was right to make a whole big thing about quitting. Now that he’s jumped through the fire, he can finally shut up and play the hits.
Article: Christopher Gilson
Cover Image: Bryan Lasky