It was a bittersweet moment when I first discovered LCD Soundsystem. It was sometime in 2012. Or was it 2013? Either way, it was in conjunction with my discovering of the TV show Misfits. Late to both parties, as per usual. But I can’t forget hearing “Get Innocuous!” for the first time, nor can I forget the visual accompaniment.
Thanks to the geniuses behind the Misfits music department , “Get Innocuous!” led me to the rest of the Sound of Silver album, and then to LCD Soundsystem’s entire discography. In my young, feverish excitement of trying to learn absolutely everything about this awesome new band I’d just heard of, I also learnt, much to my dismay, that James Murphy and gang had decided to call it quits in 2011. It meant that I would never be able to hear more new music from them, nor catch them live. The closest I could get was their 2012 documentary film, Shut Up and Play the Hits, which covered their massive blowout in Madison Square Garden. I was jealous of everyone in the crowd; of the crying boy, of Donald Glover, of Aziz Anzari. They all got to witness something great and something I never would get the chance to experience myself.
Fast forward to now, post resurrection, and you can imagine how crazy happy I am. Granted, I still haven’t been able to see LCD Soundsystem play live yet (working on it), but they released a new studio album (their last being This is Happening in 2010!) at the beginning of this month and I’ve been spinning it nonstop since.
Unlike Sound of Silver with “Get Innocuous!”, the first song on American Dream, “Oh Baby” eases you in gently and calmly. A most painless rebirth. Murphy’s voice is warm and soothing, every verse adding another layer of soft clouds that lift you above and cradle you ever so softly.
Then comes “Other Voices”, which describes the mundane morning routine of waking up and getting ready for the day. It deals with the inevitable passing of time and the anxiety associated with it: “Time isn’t over, times aren’t better/So it’s letting you down/You keep dragging back to it/You keep going back to the well/Oh that shit’s a dictator/Time won’t be messed with/Buddy, no no no”. It is, inarguably, a theme which occupies much of Murphy’s thoughts. The song concludes with the lyric “You should be uncomfortable”, taken from a conversation between David Bowie and Murphy, after which set in motion LCD Soundsystem’s return from retirement.
Following in the same vein, Murphy acknowledges his getting older in “Change Yr Mind” with his usual raw honesty and brutal self-awareness: “And I’m not dangerous now/The way I used to be once/I’m just too old for it now”. What starts off as pretty damn depressing (“I ain’t seen anyone for days/I still have yet to leave the bed”), gradually repositions itself as encouraging and reassures you that things can get better, that all the bad times will pass “If you change your mind/You can change your mind”.
Sprinkles of hope, but melancholia is nevertheless ever prevalent. With every consecutive LCD Soundsystem album, the shadow of sadness grows incrementally and the latest is heavily inundated with a barely concealed sense of hopelessness and desperation. Things get depressive real quick in the title track, with lyrics such as: “Find the place where you can be boring/Where you won’t need to explain/That you’re sick in the head and you wish you were dead”.
Reminiscent of “Someone Great” on Sound of Silver, “Black Screen” is a down-tempo yet emotionally-charged eulogy about the loss of a prominent figure in Murphy’s life, in this case, it’s the loss of friend and mentor, David Bowie. In the song, Murphy expresses regret over not having spent enough time with him—”I meant to get to you/On the turning/Things sneak up on me/Like a landslide comes” and “I’m bad with people things/But I should have tried more”.
It is Murphy’s unveiled vulnerability that gives the songs so much substance, something not so typical to dance tracks. His fears and worries, regrets, nostalgia, cynicism—they’re all there, within the music, and they’re all too frighteningly relatable.
What’s truly impressive is how LCD Soundsystem are able to transport me to sonic landscapes I never knew existed, let alone imagine. A cavernous blackhole where time moves according to other rhythms, oscillating between unknown formulae, amorphous shapes contorting and blending into new ones, strange flying fish, extreme and staggered magnifications of unkempt fingernails tapping, sweeping panoramas of mountainous terrain, shattering glass on a reverse loop, frogs hanging out in nests and birds underwater. That’s where “How Do You Sleep?” takes me. To weird fucking places, man.
Once again, Murphy has crafted synthy, dancey aural pleasures that attach themselves to our auditory cortexes like a clingy partner with abandonment issues. I find myself hearing songs (especially “Oh Baby”, “Change Yr Mind” and “How Do You Sleep?”) throughout the day, and also at night, only to discover that my laptop isn’t even on and I’m just hearing them in my head. “It moves like a virus/And enters our skin” indeed.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for continuing to make music, LCD Soundsystem. I know a lot of people are divided in their opinions about the reunion, some feeling cheated that their once (or still) favourite band got back after announcing that they were done. Or maybe it’s due to fear of a band reuniting after so many years only to totally suck and ruin their legacy. But that’s not the case here. I believe Murphy still has more to say and more to offer, and I look forward to the next album. In the meantime, I will be cycling through American Dream one more time.