Label: DFA Records
Release date: September 1, 2017
By: Mike Whyte
The return to making music of LCD Soundsystem after seemingly having retired might seem like a bit of a cliche, but this album shows more than just a cashing in on past glories. Think of the famous parting with the Madison Square Garden concert as more of the end of a chapter than an ending, and you will be more prepared for the album that follows.
It is classic James Murphy & Co., without being a classic album. Starting off with a semi industrial pounding, what follows on the intro track “Oh Baby”, is a modern Manhattan lullaby, as soothing and warm as it is brutal. Following on from this is “Other Voices”, and a return to the sound that LCD fans will remember, and have always loved. There are squalling guitars over a calypso-esque rhythm track, and the now instantly recognisable half-sung-half-spoken vocal stylings of James Murphy, the beating heart of the Soundsystem.
“Change Yr Mind” is a solid track, in so much as it has a solid groove, the sung-spoken narrative of mercy, and squealing guitars yet again. There is something a little “Fame” era Bowie about it, but equally Talking Heads too. “Emotional Haircut” is another noteworthy addition – it is witty (especially the “emotional haircut” refrain), and has a little bit of a funky-rock swagger to it. The strongest track of the set though must be “Tonite”, which rests on a bassy acid squiggle, and some of Murphy’s finest lyrics to date. The strange thing is, the titular track I don’t get on well with at all. Something about the tempo and wishy-washiness of it all make it seem like a bad 1980:s rock ballad – I rarely skip tracks, but this was close.
The thing I admire most about this album is that it is different. A lot of albums, and even albums I respect and admire, do tend to have songs on them that seem similar to ones that have preceded. Some people say it is style. When listening to “American Dream”, genuinely all tracks are different from each other, and that is refreshing. Take “How Do You Sleep?” for example. It starts off with Murphy’s vocal in full on echoey, almost Jesus and the Mary Chain like goth-ness, before the dancefloor-driven beat two-thirds of the way in starts to pound away. It is full-on enjoyment and a worthy single, and also unlike anything else on the album, just like all the other tracks. The fact that there is a nod to the classic LCD style will please the faithful, but the branching out of tempos and styles will surely bring new followers into the fold. Oh, and previewing the album by playing tracks from an ice cream van is nothing but genius by the way…
So, a welcome return for a great band, it’s as though they never went away.