New York I love you, for bringing me LCD Soundsystem. People say that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but those people obviously haven’t been listening to the big apple’s prodigal son lately. James Murphy has shifted gears again, finding his true stride when he could have easily fooled everyone into thinking he found it on his first self-titled album. Its amazing to think that the man responsible for songs like “Tribulations” and “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” could now be the maestro behind LCD Soundsystem’s latest album This is Happening. And I’m sure I speak for most when I say that I’m very glad that it is happening.
The album opens with the track “Dance Yrself Clean,” which fits all of Murphy’s stylistic strengths into one nine-minute ode to everything worth dancing for. It starts with a very stripped down juggle of drums and Murphy’s charmingly familiar speak-singing, with a few light harmonies before things start to get shaken up. About three minutes into it, the base drops in like a ton of bricks and you’ve got little choice but to start moving. What’s really impressive about this song, and many songs throughout the album is that Murphy really lets his voice cut loose. There were bits of brilliance in previous albums, but it almost seems like Muphy was self conscious about really showing off what his chords are capable of. Pulling out the stops was one of the better decisions of his musical career, and it helps the album tremendously. His vocals are very versatile, from the soft echoes of songs like the bubbly electronic “I Can Change,” to the more rocking parody of your local bar scene in “Drunk Girls.”
LCD has always been good at switching between synth-heavy electronic tunes and rocking guitar riffs in immediate succession. They straddle the line between rock and electronic music in a way that sounds more and more natural as the band continues to evolve. This blend is beautifully executed in their song about songwriting, “You Wanted a Hit.” This might be my favorite song on an album that is full of incredible songs. On this track, and all the tracks on the album, you get the feeling that LCD has cut all of the bullshit out of their songwriting and you are left with a humorous, sometimes depressing but always superb lyrical honesty. In “You Wanted a Hit” Murphy sings about the pressure to craft a song for mass appeal, and his inevitable conclusion that you can only write the songs that you have inside of you. On the track he claims that he’s played that game, but it never feels quite right. However, as much as Murphy swears that he doesn’t do “hits,” this album seems to be overflowing with them.
LCD Soundsystem has already started taking the new songs on the road, and after a recent stint in their beloved NYC they are making their way across the US with some stops in California next week. They will be playing with Holy Ghost! at the Fillmore in San Francisco on June 3 and at the Fox Theatre in Pomona on June 5. For more info on their tour check out their MySpace.