I’m not really a big fan of dance music, but LCD Soundsystem isn’t really a dance band. The songs on their self-titled debut certainly sound at home on a dance floor, but the soul of LCD Soundsystem is pure rock and roll. That brash energy abounds in everything James Murphy touches and while later LCD Soundsystem records utilized sounds that were a bit more pop oriented, LCD Soundsystem established the foundation of a dance-punk movement that Murphy and Co. spearheaded for a decade to follow.
The initial reason I fell in love with LCD Soundsystem is because they made me laugh. A friend of mine put “Disco Infiltrator” on a mix he’d made me and upon that first listen Murphy’s ridiculously energetic speak-singing put me in that wonderful place where you don’t know whether or not an artist is serious, or if they are in on the joke. Further exploration into the disc (I think I actually went to a Sam Goody to pick up a physical copy) confirmed that not only was Murphy in on the joke, he was playing one on us as well. Songs like “Losing My Edge,” and “Yr City’s A Sucker” have a pretentious persona that made me uncomfortable at first. Murphy’s lyrics and attitude give the impression that he’s an aging hipster overly knowledgeable about music who will assert at every opportunity that he will always be cooler than you. Off-putting initially, yes, but the music is so good that eventually you convince yourself that Murphy’s not talking about you — you are one of the cool kids on your way to catch Daft Punk play in Murphy’s basement — and there’s nothing greater than music that makes you feel like a better version of yourself.
Among the tongue-in-cheek tracks there are also a few of my favorites that demand to be taken more seriously. The uncharacteristically soft “Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up” is a bluesy tune with a distorted guitar line intertwining with Murphy’s lackadaisical vocal delivery. It’s a go-to song for me anytime I make a “lazy days” playlist. “Beat Connection” and “Yeah” (both the pretentious and crass mixes) are schizophrenic electronic freak-outs that I never fully appreciated until after I had seen LCD Soundsystem perform them live. Listening to the band jam out on “Yeah” at Webster Hall right before they released their third album is one of the best concert experiences of my life. This record also includes what is probably my favorite LCD Soundsystem song. I love “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” (off Sound Of Silver) and “I Can Change” (from This Is Happening) — those songs are genius. And “All My Friends” (also from Sound Of Silver) will never fail to give me goosebumps whenever my iPod shuffle surprises me with it. But the bass-heavy electro beats, simple sing-along melody, and heartbreaking lyrics of “Tribulations” make it, to me, the best.
LCD fans everywhere had a bit of a panic attack when Murphy announced his pseudo “retirement” from performing and that the band’s third album This Is Happening would be their swan song. Released in May of 2010, LCD punctuated their existence with a large tour culminating in a very publicized and surrounded by controversy final performance at NYC’s Madison Square Garden. Souls were rocked, tears were shed, and everybody went home elated but also a little down trodden that they would never hear those songs played live again. But Murphy is still up to stuff. He just recently collaborated with Andre 3000 and Gorillaz as part of Converse’s 3 Artists, 1 Song project and he frequently takes DJ’ing gigs. He’s also performing with former LCD Soundsystem member Pat Mahoney (who’s like one of the best drummers ever) at New York City’s Governor’s Ball this June. Other former members are busy with musical projects of their own and there is even talk of Murphy launching his own blend of coffee because sure, that makes perfect sense. From the way all these bands from the 90s have been reuniting lately, I’m pretty sure we can count on an LCD Soundsystem reunion. We just may have to wait until 2025 to get it.
The lucky thing is that while Murphy may no longer be performing, he’s still head of DFA Records and has a hand in producing a lot of young acts that are following in LCD Soundsystem’s footprints. Holy Ghost! have toured with the band and share the same dance-punk aesthetic while Free Energy has more of a classic rock sound. Other closely associated acts on the DFA label include electronic musician/DJ Shit Robot, British electropop band Hot Chip and The Juan MacLean, which includes former LCD Soundsystem member Nancy Whang.