There’s always been a bit of David Bowie in LCD Soundsystem, an influence present in the way the band merges disco and rock. Here, one may think of Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, for the way in which Murphy reflects on his life.
The lengthy songs and patient grooves are good for long drives or evenings of quiet contemplation that need occasional interruptions via Murphy’s wit.
American Dream seemingly fits much of the work of Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, Margot at the Wedding)— films that deal with grown-ups often fumbling through relationships.
LCD Soundsystem was never a band that looked back. So it seemed a bit strange in 2016 when the New York-based dance-rock outfitted reunited after a five-year break for what essentially served as a greatest hits tour. While Murphy and cohorts—keyboardist Nancy Whang and multi-instrumentalists Pat Mahoney and Tyler Pope, among others—often remixed vintage dance rock with cutting-edge club gloss, the group always fretted the future and celebrated the here and now, not the yesterday and nostalgic.
Flush with lyrics full of self-doubt, paranoia, and existentialism, American Dream arrives as a relief. Musically, the set sounds more relaxed than the band has been in the past. This is not the lights-out “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” LCD Soundsystem. Instead, songs are built around the sing-speak vocals of James Murphy and slowly unfolding grooves. Forget, too, any notion of LCD Soundsystem trying to cash in on past fame. Listen to “Change Yr Mind,” with its jabbing guitars and middle-aged panic. “I’m not dangerous now/The way I used to be once,” Murphy sings. “How Do You Sleep?” is odder still. A smattering of drums and some tape hiss conjure a dream—or nightmare—amidst memories of lost friends.
Why we are here and where are we going are big questions LCD Soundsystem grappled with in the past. But as the 47-year-old Murphy approaches 50, he manages to maintain the act’s trademark sarcasm while tempering the sonic mood. Don’t expect a calm listen, however, as rhythms poke and prod. Instrumentally and tonally, there’s a lot going on within the framework, and the production thankfully affords a generous amount of headroom that makes even tinier nuances audible and part of the overall canvas. The 2LP set also gets to the heart of the music’s pacing and pulse.
Throughout, Murphy delivers words as if he’s slightly agitated he still hasn’t figured it all out. “I have a penny for your thoughts,” he sings early on in the record, “If you could keep them to yourself.”
Last chance to change your mind...