LCD Soundsystem returns after announcing breaking up in 2012. Spearheaded by front man James Murphy, Murphy pays tribute to long-time idol David Bowie and 80’s synthetic pop. Murphy announced late 2016 that the band in-fact reassembled and were working on a new full-length commercial project entitled, American Dream and tour. September of 2017 rolls around and they fulfilled their promise. At ten tracks strong standing at an hour and eight minutes, American Dream can appear to overstay it’s welcome. Reunions have been rather controversial and offer a sum of speculation for these bands recollecting on their “glory days”. Many bands try, and many fail. Bands like Slowdive, At the Drive In, and Gorillaz all fell short for a commercial comeback in 2017, victimized by critics alike. Slow dive released ‘Slowdive’, their first record in over 22 years, but was scorned by music journalists. Achieving such a comeback is rather hard to appeal to old fans that moved past trends and grew old. LCD Soundsystem, has been glorified as one of the faces of post-80’s electronic indie dance music. Echoing between dorm walls and dance floors throughout the early 2000’s. Murphy and his band compared to feats accomplished by legendary acts such as New Order, Moby, and Bowie to name a few. Decorated and philosophized, what could LCD Soundsytem possibly do wrong on a new record?
James Murphy, at 47 years old has been recognized as “a major force in recent music,” and was named one of Rolling Stone’s “New Immortals”, according to Rolling Stone Magazine. With now technically four full-length records under his belt, Murphy is running out of tricks up his sleeves. The same algorithm Murphy used to compose This Is Happening, and Sound of Silver has been refurnished and diluted by Internet forums. The speculation of a reunion was even a work of fiction for some. Some like DFA co-founder, Jonathan Galkin who announced LCD Soundsystem is not getting back together according to Pitchfork. On April 22, 2016 LCD Soundsystem headlined Coachella 2016. Sending a clear message to all fans and critics that declared the band’s reunion, and a new record.
American Dream is not an unprecedented record by LCD Soundsystem standards. In reality, it’s the predictability that did not set it apart from its counterparts. Murphy and his bandmates stuck to their guns on this one. The infectious ear candy of Sound Of Silver counteracted with a more structural approach to songs. A more minimal approach to a dance record more or less. The record is less texturized but pays oath to its predecessors. The opening track ‘Oh Baby’, introduces itself as one of the more colorful songs off the record. The synth leads mimic cords from This Is Happening. The second track, ‘Other Voices’ tries it’s hardest to sound like a New Order deep cut.
Despite the record’s slow start, Murphy turns the notch up on ‘How do you sleep?’ Only halfway through the album do you get introduced to an ear-quenching hypnotic bass drum resembling that of a Joy Division track. The song is paced rather slowly in anticipation of climatic synth leads that immediately erupt the track. Cocaine and shores serve as reference points for impermanence. Murphy reflects on disillusion and chronicling the deteriorated relationship with DFA co-founder Lizzy Goldsworthy. The lyrics “Standing on the shore facing east” is a direct reference to Lizzy’s departure back to the UK. Direct references to Lou Reed, Suicide’s Alan Varga and of course, David Bowie, sprinkled throughout the album as well. All momentum the record picked up unravels sonically. Hollering from its deepest mix, how can Murphy out-do himself?
The following track, ‘Tonite’ pays homage to the taste of ‘This Is Happening’. Jumpy, quirky bass lines fill the track from start to finish. A groovy pro-dance track poking fun of mainstream pop galore contemporaries. “And all the hits are saying the same thing/ there’s only tonight, tonight, tonight”, are direct jabs to the current music industry. The tracks ‘Call the Police’ and ‘American Dream’ were the singles dropped in promotion for the record. Released on a double-sided 7” and digitally on May 5. Although ‘Call the Police’ was rather bland and lyrically too pretentious, ‘American Dream’ flipped the script on the pair. The self-titled track organized gorgeous synthetic leads followed by echoing percussion. The track illustrates an individual waking up one morning searching for self-identity. Unsure if Murphy is referring to himself, or someone in particular; however the message is clear. What previous records failed to consult the issue of self-identity, Murphy elaborately dissects the self-preservation and deterioration of one self. It could’ve been more apparent, but it’s the subtly of Murphy’s lyrics. The interpretation Murphy tries to convey is less affective on ‘Emotional Haircut’, as he copes with literally an embarrassing “emotional haircut”. Take it as you will, but as metaphorical Murphy could possibly be, he takes pride in his haircut. “Oh no buddy, no need to be concerned/it’s part of the game/it’s part of the feat”, counter argue his desire to please. The lyrics ‘treat yourself tonight/to a little love life” uncovers all the clues of self identity. The track ends backed against a wall of roaring guitars.
The final track, ‘Black Screen’ composes itself as a neat love letter dedicated to his longtime collaborator, mentor and friend…David Bowie. In a melancholic over twelve minute piece, Murphy does not skip a beat. He sings, “I owe you dinner, man/ I owe you something”, and “Been saving email trails/kept together/I read them back sometimes /to remember the time I wrote to you,” directly to the ghost of Bowie. As if he’s hoping he will listen sometime. Bowie’s fascination with space is reflected on a reference to watching earth from a satellite described by Murphy. “You could be anywhere/on the black screen,” are the last words said on the record as the track fades out on a soft bed of piano keys and synths.
This record was not LCD Soundsystem’s victory lap, nor a comeback record. It was more. It was a proper departure that couldn’t of been captivated at Madison Square Garden or by a full-length documentary back in 2012. It was the departure the band needed. The departure Murphy needed. The record wasn’t as coherent as Sound of Silver, or as poppy as This is Happening. The lyrics are more defined and sharpened on American Dream. It’s almost like Murphy tried his best to compose a meaningful album. An album you can dance to, drive to, and overall continue to return to. LCD Soundsystem leaves behind a legacy, a legacy that in retrospect will be stacked against bands like New Order, and Bowie himself. What is next to come for James Murphy and his bandmates remain unclear, but for some reason not irrelevant. Their relevancy will live on throughout dance bars, beach shores and dormitories alike. Their presence will forever be followed anywhere from, “one step forward”, or “six steps back.”
James Murphy tackles self-identity and loss in LCD Soundsystem's fourth record, American Dream.