Review Summary: This is still happening
For all intents and purposes, the 2011 disbandment of LCD Soundsystem was much needed, despite whatever excuses James Murphy has fed the media in recent interviews. On the band’s prior effort, the much celebrated This Is Happening
, displayed a band running out of ideas and Murphy himself running out of creative steam, surprising enough from a man who seems to have a never-ending amount of smart-assery and with quips to boot. Onward now six years later to the unveiling of their comeback record American Dream
, it feels as if Murphy and co. never left in the first place. And you know what that entails in their wake? Enclosed within the seventy minute-long American Dream
are the following:
An array of synthesizers, gadgets and a man behind the mixing console to ensure you get the sound of your synths just right (read: blaringly loud and guaranteed to piss the neighbors off if the dial is up too high)
One pair of cowbells, a drum kit and the ‘ol reliable drum machine for when things get awful contrived
Lyricism that contains: commonplace snarkiness, too-cool-for-school attitude that adds to what some people call “the hip factor”, occasional melancholy, and on top of that, a general sense that you’re getting far too old for this shit
Several nods to your favorite bands. This time – our post-punk/funk darling Talking Heads (prime examples: “Other Voices”, “Change Yr Mind”)
And a fat guy in a t-shirt doing all the saying.
Murphy knows quite well what he’s doing and honestly, it’s a fail-safe strategy – American Dream is
a wonderful comeback record, but what does it exactly bring to the table that we, the audience, haven’t heard before? Songs like “Oh Baby” and “Emotional Haircut” do little to deviate from the quintessential LCD Soundsystem formula – the former moves at a snail’s pace while Murphy croons for a couple of minutes beneath instrumentation awash with glimmering synths and sharp moog stabs; the latter a solid rocker, seems to recycle both the aggression found in 2005’s “Movement” and the call-and-response vocal of the Sound of Silver
cut “Watch the Tapes”, yet serves to be the build-up to the closing track and standout “Black Screen”. At a monolithic twelve minutes, “Black Screen” is Murphy’s “The Overload” – an anti-“Someone Great”, the lyric focuses on a long-gone individual (this time, David Bowie) yet instead, the instrumentation emphasizes Murphy’s regrets from his relationship with the individual before disintegrating into a lengthy, minimalist piano fade-out. An exercise in restraint, the song is quite similar in structure to an earlier cut, “How Do You Sleep?”; unlike “Black Screen” however, the track in question meanders on and on for half of its duration before bursting into an anti-climactic finale that ends up arriving a few minutes too soon before reaching an even more unsatisfying resolution.
In light of a few of the deeper cuts weighing down the quality of American Dream
, the triad of singles “American Dream”, “Call the Police” and “Tonite” all prove their worth in context of the album; the final single “Tonite” perhaps being one of the better songs Murphy has come up with in his fifteen or so years under the LCD Soundsystem banner, in the process coming close to making a fully realized true blue pop song. Forget the “White Light/White Heat”-aping “Drunk Girls”, “Tonite” has the makings of a hit that never was with a catchier hook and a far less obnoxious vocal accompanying the music. An addendum revealed on the eve of the album’s release, “Pulse”, nicely compliments the album with its expansive use of percussion yet in the context of American Dream
and its ten songs, it doesn’t exactly fit within the ideas and themes each song explores in depth.
For what it’s worth, the return of LCD Soundsystem was ultimately necessary and well-welcomed – the supposed final album “This Is Happening” featured a band low on creative energy and with a lack of proper concepts that made its preceding albums so incredible and somewhat innovative in the mid-aughts. American Dream
, in turn, undoes what would’ve been an incredibly mediocre way to go out with something that is still flawed, but avoids the pitfalls of its predecessor with material that shows a band revitalized and coming ever closer to returning to their Sound of Silver
-era prime. May it last long.