Review Summary: Contains a rapturous tangle of tingling grooves, a primitive electronic energy, and a level of invention few in this field can ever expect to achieve.
Much as James Murphy may have intimated, “This Is Happening” will never be his curtain call. The deep musical passion he harbours is all consuming, and an ability to unravel all the vital ingredients from the past to formulate his own brand of Indie/Dance music have both entertained and influenced many fans and peers for the past decade. Even at his most self analytical, Murphy knows that he can’t let this legacy end here, as there’s still too many creative buds ready to flower for him to call it a day. Ultimately, “This Is Happening” will be unfairly judged against its predecessor, 2007s magnificent “Sound Of Silver”, and although this recording falls just short it still maintains a rapturous tangle of tingling grooves, a primitive electronic energy, and a level of invention few in this field can ever expect to achieve.
All of the usual sonic suspects of influence are here with Eno/Bowie Berlin period space rock, 70s New York disco rhythms, and the spare Krautrock synth sounds all moulded together with just a hint of the punk aesthetic. Murphy still sacrifices himself to music and instrumentation from a bygone era, and yet he manages to retain a sharp, simplistic modernity that’s perfectly captured in the rousing opener “Dance Yrself Clean”. What starts out as a fairly innocuous slow burning groove explodes with an all enveloping Moog bass line and a vocal performance that sees the singer at his most manically deranged as he turns to familiar social anxieties, making for an arresting, attention grabbing introduction.
“Drunk Girls” is typical LCD Soundsystem Dance/Punk; rhythmically tight, musically ramshackle and full of the knowing wit that made “North American Scum” one of the most memorable tunes of the last decade. For some, “All I Want” may sail too close to David Bowie’s “Heroes” (particularly the lead guitar refrain). The fact that there is a definite nod to the Thin White Duke should never deter the listener from the dynamic counter synth instrumental layered within, and one of Murphy’s most heartfelt vocal performances. The gentle Japan/Yellow Magic Orchestra sounding introduction of “You Wanted A Hit” bizarrely drifts into a new wave/power pop recording that defends his inability to write hit records on demand. The call and answer yelps of “Pow Pow” may be wearing after continued listens, but the 70s groove remains intact with a foot tapping intensity. The haunted ballad “Somebody’s Calling Me” needs an editorial snip of a couple of minutes, particularly as it’s followed by the richly rewarding up tempo, lyrically uplifting closer,“Home”.
One can never be sure why this is James Murphy’s final recording as LCD Soundsystem. Maybe it’s the conviction to the rigours of attempting to better his high quality musical standards that causes the personal turmoil. Maybe there is a deep seated inner belief to bow out at the top of his game. Judging by “This Is Happening” and all of his previous works, the music world will be a poorer place without him. He can’t end it here.