What more can be said about May's slate of new releases that hasn't already been said? I have been proclaiming this month as the year's best for new releases, and LCD Soundsystem only solidify that with their newest effort, This Is Happening. The lead single from the album "Drunk Girls" was a wary introduction to the album, as the song is far and away the poorest effort on the album -- but along came album opener "Dance Yrself Clean" with its staccato synths and funk-driven breaks -- and all was forgiven.
James Murphy & co. have crafted another gem of 7-minute plus opuses -- songs that are not just long for being long's sake and don't just fill those extra minutes with boring white noise or offbeat, experimental saxophones. Murphy has crafted LCD Soundsystem's name as one of electronic rock dominance, and This Is Happening proves as much. However, the album accomplishes this with a different feel from the band's previous work -- one that is a bit more electronically subtle, with a larger focus on being a rock band rather than someone in front of a keyboard with a microphone. The effort has been duly noted by critics worldwide, even garnering Pitchfork's best marks this year so far.
What the critics are saying:
: Murphy's vast perspective and all-knowing mien are invaluable assets to his success. Recorded in L.A. instead of his hometown, This Is Happening finds the unlikely rock star zooming out even further in search of the realness and truth mentioned on the album's "music about writing music" track "You Wanted a Hit". And on the virtuoso rambler "Pow Pow", he seems to locate a perch where he can "relax" and "see the whole place" and understand "advantages to both" sides of any argument. Sounds nice. But by the end of the song, he's beset by confusion, numbness, and a false sense of security. "What you want from now is someone to feel you," he croons. At first, Murphy showed how to let loose without losing your cool; now he's figuring out how to break down without cracking up.
: With This Is Happening, Murphy & Co. closely align their sound and vision with Bowie's late-'70s ''Berlin'' collaborations with Brian Eno (Low, Heroes, Lodger), as well as Bowie's work with Iggy Pop around the same time. ''All I Want,'' with Murphy's foghorn guitar lead and chattering piano, could almost be ''Heroes,'' while the honking synth and spare drum clicks of ''Somebody's Calling Me'' evoke
the same boozy wee hours of Iggy's ''Nightclubbing.'' Golden-voiced Murphy, however, doesn't try for any cheap Bowie-baritone vocal mimicry, and his lyrics and musicianship have greater depth and polish. The best inspiration should come with improvements, and Murphy's are vast.
: Crank up "Dance Yourself Clean," the opening track on LCD Soundsystem's third album, at your own peril: a pitter-pat of drums and main man James Murphy's muttering lead to a speaker-lacerating modular synth blast. "Everybody's getting younger / It's the end of an era, it's true," Murphy states, revisiting the hipster-crank persona that he's embodied ever since his epochal and encyclopedic debut single, "Losing My Edge."
But what keeps Murphy from being an insufferable know-it-all is how he folds deeper emotions into his references. "All My Friends" resonated not because of the Reichian piano and Pink Floyd reference but for its friendship lament. Happening's heart is "Change," which uses an early acid beat to detail a disintegrating relationship. Murphy's high register breaks at the refrain of "in love," and it's the most emotionally devastating dance-floor moment since New Order's heyday.
: But as it turned out, LCD Soundsystem had infinitely more to offer than snarky gags. Their second album, 2007's Sound of Silver, served notice that Murphy was not merely the owner of great record collection and a scabrous wit, but a songwriter of real emotional heft, not least on All My Friends' remarkable meditation on hedonism and ageing. Nevertheless, its successor's opening track Dance Yrself Clean confirms that Murphy has decided to take Steve Albini's advice, and that this will be his last record with LCD Soundsystem. "Everybody's getting younger," he sings mournfully, returning to his central lyrical theme: a 40-year-old man trying to puzzle out his place in the youth-fuelled world of dancefloors and glitterballs.
This Is Happening
is out now via EMI