LCD Soundsystem (DFA, 2005)
Sound of Silver (DFA, 2007)
LCD Soundsystem announced their presence with authority on the 2002 single "Losing My Edge." Over a cheap, party-up bedroom electro burble, singer-producer James Murphy laid down a grizzled hipster's snarked-out lament. He's seen it all—a Can show in 1968, a Suicide practice in 1974, Daft Punk at CBGB's. But it matters not, because The Kids are coming up behind him, younger, better looking, more talented, rendering him little more than the record store equivalent of Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, nattering on about Beefheart and Bambaataa to no one in particular as his historical role as cultural gatekeeper gets outsourced to some punk with a blog. All he has left is his bile: "I hear everybody that you know is more relevant than everybody that I know."
Actually, not really. Murphy has been pretty darn relevant for almost a decade, releasing hot slabs of disco-punk on his DFA label, producing bands like the Rapture, putting on a shockingly great live show, and, most importantly, making brilliantly self-aware but ruthlessly fun records as leader of LCD. Murphy brought a sense of humor to deeply unfunny genres like Detroit techno, Kraut-rock, early Eighties New York punk-funk and synth-pop. At his best, he also brings a blue-eyed sentimentality straight from Sinatra-ville. "Losing My Edge" is compiled along with the band's other early DFA singles on the bonus disc of the band's self-titled debut. "Yeah" and "Beat Connection" lay James' deadpan incantations over spry, scintillating gutbucket disco, exuding dry heat. Murphy's production can sound tossed-off and spare but he's actually a studious sonic architect, mixing indie-rock's fetish for you-are-there presence with dance music's aura of spacey, time-suspending bliss—Pavement by way of Juan Atkins, as Losing My Edge Dude might have it. The disc of originals could never blaze as consistently as the singles, but "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" is worth the price of admission, a hilarious spiel that pokes fun at his aesthetic while serving as an advertisement for it.
Murphy could've kept rolling as the Steven Wright of the Roland 303 for another record or so, but he had bigger ambitions. On Sound of Silver he elevated his game and came up with a classic pop record, one of the 2000s' best. The jokes are still here. "Get Innocuous" pokes fun at his music's hipster cul de sac, "North American Scum" riffs on enjoying international fame during a moment when everyone else on earth hates America, and "Sound of Silver" parodies gloomy Eighties revivalism. But the album's corker one-two punch leaves irony behind: "Someone Great" is a gently throbbing, break-up elegy with bitingly realistic lines like "you're smaller than my wife imagined" and a weary beat that can barely carry the weight of the romantic letdown. "All My Friends," has even more emotional juice: Over a double-time techno pulse Murphy sings the ballad of the aging Manhattan careerist cool-kid, just deep enough into his thirties to feel the afterburn from too much ambition by day and too many parties by night, too many druggy sunrises and not enough sleep, wondering where all his real friends have gone, or if he ever really made any. Losing My Edge Guy might call it Sinatra's "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" by way of the Ramones' "I Remember You" by way of Derrick May's "Strings of Life." But by the time it's over, he'll probably be too busy blubbering on your shoulder to say much of anything.
Portions of this album guide appeared in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (Fireside, 2004).
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