LCD Soundsystem perform their final concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City, April 2, 2011.
One of the best and most buzzed-over new artists of the 2000s, the electro-disco-rock band LCD Soundsystem is the project of James Murphy. The perpetually stubbled singer-producer-instrumentalist is half (with Tim Goldsworthy) of the production team DFA, which produced underground dance smashes like the Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers," remixed everyone from Le Tigre to Junior Senior, and ran their own record label (also called DFA). With LCD Soundsystem's first two albums, Murphy became a solo star and brought hordes of indie-rockers onto the dance floor with a combination of steely, rock-inflected beats and witty and tuneful songwriting.
Born in 1970, Murphy grew up as a suburban punk in New Jersey. He played in various bands growing up, including Mystery Meat and Great. After high school he trained for a year as a competitive kickboxer, then attended NYU. Murphy graduated with an English degree and ended up talking to the producers of It's Gary Shandling's Show, which led to an offer to write for a new sitcom -- a then-little known show called Seinfeld. But Murphy had his heart set on a career in music and never responded to the offer.
Murphy became the sound engineer for an art-punk band called Dungbeetle; they never amounted to much, though they and Murphy built a recording studio in Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood. He met Goldsworthy, a veteran of the English rave scene, when Goldsworthy came to New York from London to work on an album by producer-DJ David Holmes. Murphy became a studio engineer for the project, and though Murphy was uninterested in dance music at the time, he and Goldsworthy shared a distaste for New York's music scene, which they found barren.
Murphy began DJing, often jumping in the crowd rather than remaining behind his turntables. He and Goldsworthy soon formed DFA as both a production duo and record label, either signing or working with bands like the Rapture, Radio 4 and Juan Maclean. DFA became seen as an impossibly cool entity, exemplars of the much written-about (and overblown) New York rock scene of the early 2000s. Through their remixes and production work, Murphy and Goldsworthy gained serious cultural cachet; they even embarked on an unfruitful attempt to work with Britney Spears.
As LCD Soundsystem, Murphy began releasing singles like 2002's "Losing My Edge," which combines a fuzzy, throbbing disco beat with hilariously wry lyrics that spoof indie music snobbery. (The song is written from the point of an aging hipster who keeps bragging about how cool he is – "I was there at the first Can show in 1968.." – but fears the kids are passing him by.)
LCD's 2005 debut collects the early singles on one disc, offering new material on the other. In his Rolling Stone review of the album, Barry Walters wrote, "The singles disc simply kicks ass upon impact, thanks to "Edge" and attitude-filled tracks such as "Beat Connection" and "Yeah." The new-material disc combines punchy dance-floor successors such as "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" with tracks that either push the extremes of Murphy's dance-rock fusion (the rigid punk of "Movement," the Kraftwerk funk of "Disco Infiltrator") or fall unexpectedly far outside it (the Beatles-y ballad "Never as Tired as When I'm Waking Up'). LCD have managed to be both underground hitmakers and bona fide album artists as easily as Murphy splices guitar noise and machine thump."
LCD Soundsystem hit the Top Forty in the UK; it didn't fare as well in America, though it did increase Murphy's reputation as an au courant record-maker. After the album's release, Murphy toured with M.I.A. and made a single-track, 45-minute Nike-commissioned composition (45:33), written with joggers in mind.
In 2007 LCD released their remarkable second album, The Sound of Silver, which had all the burning dancefloor impact of the first album with even better tunes, including the witty uptempo "North American Scum" and the gorgeous, wistful "All My Friends." Silver earned nearly universal acclaim as well as a Grammy nomination for Electronica/Dance album.
2010 will see the release of Murphy's soundtrack for the Ben Stiller film Greenberg, as well as the release of LCD Soundsystem's third album, an as-yet-untitled LP which Murphy has said will LCD's last.