LCD Soundsystem

American Dream

Columbia/DFA

Sep 01, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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"Does it make you uncomfortable?"

Thisaccording to a recent interview with The New York Timesis what David Bowie asked LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy as he mulled over re-grouping his disco-punk ensemble five years after their triumphant Madison Square Garden swansong. Bowie's point was clear: if you're not out of your comfort zone, then why bother.

Murphy's long been a man to defy convention. The very purpose of LCD was to break down the rote, formulaic constructs of rock 'n' roll. And he did it with astonishing consistencyright from the grating dancefloor grind of 2002's debut single "Losing My Edge" through to 2010's dance-slash-art-slash-rock masterpiece This Is Happening.

All of which makes American Dream easy prey for detractors. This is unquestionably an LCD Soundsystem record. Murphy is as preoccupied with the anxiety of aging as ever; his influences are burned into every cut; and the cooler than thou, sunglasses-indoors aesthetic remains. From a distance, it's comfortable as fuck. But then you get closer.

American Dream is the upshot of a darker, older, wiser LCD Soundsystem. Opener "Oh Baby" offers an early glimpse of the band's ripening, spinning a slow-building synth into a tender web of effects as Murphy pleads "I'm on my knees." You don't doubt him. Similarly, "I Used To" is a paranoid entanglement of bass and guitar that rumbles like a Depeche Mode belly ache, as Murphy's falsettos: "I still try to wake up."

Thematically and sonically these songs are psychologically knotted. "Emotional Haircut" is an angst-ridden mangle of tumbling drums and stabbing guitars that explode as a raging cacophonous squall. "Call the Police" is a bassy New Order-like charge that collides into a brawl of guitar. And 13-minute closer "Black Screen" is an irrational mass of minor key synth and percussion that drifts into a beautiful ambient haze.

These cold sweats don't manage to halt the record's more propulsive points. "Other Voices" and "Tonite" are classic LCD bangers, exploding as massive dancefloor moments that at various stages blurt out huge clangs of cowbell, slapping bass, rewired guitar, and vintage synthesizers. Album opus "How Do You Sleep" is a jarring, frenetic triumph; building it's way into a pulsating crescendo that has Murphy repeating "One step forward six steps back" over and over and over.

This absolute sense of self-consciousnessself-doubt evenis central to the assembly of American Dream. It is a wrangle with relevancy and purpose; a neurotic breakdown of both the past and the present; a question of whether there's actually any point at all. If that's not uncomfortable, what is? (www.lcdsoundsystem.com)

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