LCD Soundsystem, Brixton Academy, London
Wednesday 28 April 2010
On the Beastie Boys' 1998 song "Unite" they declare, "We're the scientists of sound, we're mathematically putting it down" (it's one of the more pointy-headed boasts in rap history). These lines, though, could easily be assigned to fellow New Yorker and sonic adventurer James Murphy, producer behind the DFA label and mastermind of LCD Soundsystem.
During the band's first song, "Us V Them", he strolls around the stage, microphone in hand, throwing out lyrics while hitting buttons, tweaking sounds coming from various machines and gesturing to people off stage to amend certain other noises.
In the first song it emerges that band member Nancy Whang's keyboard isn't working. Despite the apparent trouble, the song sounds fine, but Murphy, being something of a perfectionist, decides to go for a second take: he skips off stage momentarily and then returns, recreating his stage entrance as the band kicks off with "Us V Them" part two; and indeed, the sound is more complete.
Recently turned 40 and slightly bulkier than your average skinny-jeaned frontman, Murphy is the somewhat unlikely focal point of events and yet he is a rather magnetic presence, shimmying and tossing out miniature dance moves in time to the music, while the rest of the band around him are virtually static.
Exercising restraint and recognising the potential for stilted crowd reactions in the face of a slew of unfamiliar new material, they only play three songs from their new, third, album, This Is Happening, which is released next month. The opening single, "Drunk Girls", follows in the same vein as the lead singles from their previous two records, "Daft Punk is Playing at my House" and "North American Scum", in being fast, frenetic and throwaway fun (the latter is a surprise omission from the night's proceedings).
The standout of the new songs is "I Can Change"; it unfolds in a burr of blips and beats slowly working themselves out, underscored by Murphy's lyrics, nicely combining the sardonic and the plaintive.
This is the manner of the best songs from the band's back catalogue, "All My Friends" and "Someone Great" from 2007's acclaimed Sound of Silver LP, and the band's debut single, "Losing My Edge", all of which are showcased. The latter in particular is blasted through with noisy aplomb – and despite being eight years old, still feels fresh. It hasn't lost its edge. While it is a shame that some of the memorable lyrics are lost to the sound smudge, the PA troubles are nonetheless powerless to dent these songs' impact.
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