Album: LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening (DFA/Parlophone)
Murphy's law: put the others in the shade – then bow out
Sunday 16 May 2010
When you've made the album of the century, what do you do next? In James Murphy's case, you try again...but only once.
LCD Soundsystem's second album, 2007's Sound of Silver, was the defining artefact of the whole indie-dance-alternative-techno-electro-punk-funk agglomeration of the Noughties, its creator magically alchemising the base metals of its sources into pure argentum, and most critics worth their salt recognised this immediately.
Murphy would have been forgiven for a swollen head, or stage fright, or both. Somehow, he's focused on delivering a final album (yes, this is LCD's last waltz) which, while not as jaw-dropping as its predecessor, is as close to perfection as anything you'll hear this year.
It begins with "Dance Yourself Clean", a sublime strawberry-flavoured digi-pop odyssey set at approximately the pace of Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love" or Malcolm McLaren's "Madame Butterfly" which, even though it nudges nine minutes, never outstays its welcome. Then we slam straight into the single "Drunk Girls", another of Murphy's deadly accurate surveys of social mores.
Sound of Silver's many echoes of Kraftwerk continue here with "One Touch", which could be an East Coast answer to "Trans Europe Express" ("Neu Jersey Turnpike"?). Similarly, "All I Want" reaffirms Murphy's blatant Bowiephilia with a soaring guitar motif lifted straight from "Heroes".
There's an accidental weak spot in the form of "Change", purely because the line "I can change I can change I can change ..." puts you in mind of The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony", but it's soon forgotten. On "Hit", a quasi-Japanese instrumental intro gives way to a skinny-tie New Wave groove over which Murphy addresses – one presumes – DFA's parent label (Parlophone/EMI) with the self-justificatory "You wanted a hit... but maybe we don't do hits ...".
And suddenly we're into the last LCD Soundsystem song of all time, the valedictory "What You Need". Its lyrics form a how-to manual for bands of the future. It's superfluous, of course. With LCD Soundsystem's peerless trilogy, James Murphy has already provided one. His work here is done.
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