LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
- Released: 1 September 2017
- Label: Columbia/DFA
When James Murphy called time on LCD Soundsystem in 2011, it was difficult to fathom his reasoning for doing so. Three records into a relatively short career, and off the back of the hugely-acclaimed This Is Happening, the timing made no apparent sense. LCD Soundsystem had reached the height of their popularity to date at that time, and then appeared to be throwing it all away.
Whatever the thinking behind the break-up was, come December 2015, it didn't matter any more. The surprise release of the not-so-festive track Christmas Will Break Your Heart signalled the return of the band, and for the next year and a half, the indie world waited with baited breath for LP4.
A successful reunion tour, which included a headline slot at Coachella, only increased anticipation. And now it's here. Seven years after appearing to call it a day, Murphy and co. return with American Dream. It's worth the wait, but it does come with a Murphy who's songwriting now has an added tinge of world-weariness.
Murphy has spent his off-time, well, not exactly taking any time off. Most notably, he was a contributor to David Bowie's final album, Blackstar. The influence of his late idol can be found all over LCD Soundsystem's new work. Alas, Murphy has recently cited a key reason for his band's reunion was the encouragement he received from Bowie to do so.
Under the twitching electronics and jagged guitars you'd expect to find on any LCD recordings, Murphy's lyrics seem to have taken a more serious turn since 2010. A shift from the irony of tracks such as Losing My Edge was required to ensure that LCD Soundsystem's return didn't delve into the territory of self-parody.
They had to return with a purpose, especially to appease those fans who feel difficult towards a new record, having bought into the 'break-up' and everything that came with it. Murphy addresses this on the album's second track Other Voices, which ends on a poignant line "You should be uncomfortable". In that line, you may find the biggest clue that his desire to return to LCD Soundsystem lies with Bowie's influence. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Murphy was quoted as saying "I spent a good amount of time with David Bowie and I was talking about getting the band back together. He said 'does it make you uncomfortable?'. I said 'yeah', and he said, 'good, it should, you should be uncomfortable'"
Any fans who were worried that LCD Soundsystem would lose their edge musically though, need not be worried. Our first introduction to American Dream was lead single Call The Police, which dropped back in April, is full of energy and slots right in alongside the likes of Daft Punk Is Playing At My House as a rollicking live banger.
How Do You Sleep? is LCD Soundsystem doing what LCD Soundsystem does best. An ever-building synth beat climaxing with a gigantic drop after five minutes is reminiscent of This Is Happening's standout Dance Yrself Clean, and is the highlight of the record.
As for new direction, the title track, released alongside Call The Police earlier in the year, finds the more bleary Murphy alluded to earlier, sombrely recounting a regretful previous night the morning after “Look what happened when you were dreaming, then punch yourself in the face”. Closing track Black Screen, which fizzles the record out with a messy art-rock piano, slows the record down before grinding it to a halt.
Placed between this couple of downtempo, reflective tracks, Murphy manages to muster one more textbook LCD behemoth of a song, in the albums other standout moment Emotional Haircut. Starting out as a danceable electro-punk track with a chant of the title which harks back to 2010 single Drunk Girls, the track builds to a panicked ending with Murphy bellowing darkly "Yeah you've got numbers on your phone of the dead that you cannot delete, and you're losing all your skin when you just can't sleep" over frantic and furious guitars, drums and beats.
Any fears of LCD Soundsystem returning and not picking up where they so surprisingly left off more than half a decade ago have been allayed. There's some new direction, which clearly comes with age and reflection, but there's a lot in this record that a pre-2011 fan can find to love. LCD Soundsystem are back, brilliant and hopefully planning on sticking around a little longer this time.