There was no doubt that when LCD Soundssystem said “this is happening” in 2010 and James Murphy called the whole project quits, it wouldn’t be the last we would hear from him and the post-wave-electro-punk band of his creation. Even as the “long goodbye” tour drew to its conclusion, and the supposed final recordings came in the form of a live album, there was this continued nudging sense that LCD Soundsystem had more to give to the world.
As James Murphy worked on other projects like Arcade Fire and the Despacio Soundsystem it was clear his creative genius was far from exhausted and that LCD Soundsystem, one of the most unique electronic music projects to come out of the early 2000’s, would grace our Hi-Fi’s soon again. LCD Soundsystem were born out of the electroclash era, where punk, New-Wave, Electro, House, Disco and Techno all merged in a fantastic crescendo, laying the foundation for bands like LCD, the Knife and Black Strobe in one of the more exciting periods in electronic music’s recent history.
It was exactly like James Murphy said in “Losing my Edge”, the single that would propel LCD into mass-consciousness: “I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought electric guitars.” In that period it opened up a whole new world to the electronic music fan and introduced a few rock fans to a new music played on what resembled kitchen appliances and 12 years on from releasing their self-titled debut it’s no coincidence that we find that same spark on their monumental come-back album, american dream.
James Murphy’s voice strains to juxtapose the upbeat synthesiser arrangements with his usual frank and jocular cynicism, but as in american dream there’s an underlying despair in his vocal and his lyrics that we had not heard before. Track titles like “North American Scum” and “New York I Love you, but your bringing me down” had always eloquently played on that love-hate relationship Murphy has with his surroundings like a Seinfeld routine, but on “american dream” it feels more concerted than ever as a piece of commentary on the current political landscape of the American super-power.
Lyrics like “I have a penny for your thoughts if you could keep them to yourself” and “the revolution was here that would set you free from the bourgeoisie”are not only expertly crafted one-liners, but they’re also a lot more somber than Murphy’s usual tongue-and-cheek charm. There’s a sincerity to the album and the subject matter that pays homage to artists like David Bowie and Lou Reed and the end of that ineffable idea of an American dream, and if ever there was a tone of an impending end to LCD Soundsystem’s music, “american dream” certainly captures it. The ephemeral buoyancy of previous albums is weighed down by large arrangements with wall-of-sound-like guitars and chunky synthesisers that feel more composed than the DIY roots of the one-man band.
James Murphy caters to a more epic sonic arrangement on “american dream” and “This is happening” wasn’t quite it, this might just be it. James Murphy has said he will never make another big deal about the end of this project, and on the surface it does seem “american dream” might just conclude LCD Soundsystem as Murphy gets the last of what he has to say off his chest.