CD: LCD Soundsystem, LCD Soundsystem

It all starts so thrillingly. Two slamming synth chords, two matching yelps: "Ow! Ow!" This album, those opening squawks tell you, is the work of a man who spent many formative hours listening to Prince, striving to perfect some funky moves but tripping over his own feet every time; a man who has since come to rule the dancefloor and can't decide whether it's the most exciting or excruciating thing that has ever happened to him.

James Murphy - the man behind LCD Soundsystem - isn't cool by design: in interviews he dismisses himself as a shambling geek. And yet, thanks to his production work as half of DFA, his DJ sets at New York parties and his earlier LCD singles (notably the propulsive Losing My Edge), he has found himself revered as the driving force of the fashionable dance-rock scene. His only defence against this hipness - and, at least initially, it's an appealing one - is self-mockery. Daft Punk Is Playing at My House, the first track on his debut album, is at once a challenge to anyone who thinks they can better Murphy in the dance-rock game and an admission that such behaviour is juvenile. The words of the title ricochet through the song; every time he repeats them Murphy sounds more like a boy showing off his toys.

His tactic on Daft Punk isn't dissimilar from that on Losing My Edge, a hilarious attack on the meaninglessness of a life that revolves around music. He has an unerring ability to puncture the delusions of indie clubbers and rockers alike: being a fan of Kraftwerk, he reminds you, doesn't make you a better person.

The irony, of course, is that even as Murphy tells you music shouldn't matter that much, he is creating sounds that make the rest of the world disappear. Disco Infiltrator is exhilarating, a frenzy of squelching bass, crackling percussion and melodic bubbles and throbs. It transports you to a dancefloor heaving with people in dodgy retro outfits, all having too much fun to maintain their pose of studied cool. Movement, Murphy's furious assault on rock scenes, is itself a furious rock assault, three asphyxiating minutes of mindless guitar violence. The riff on Daft Punk is just as relentless: it grabs you by the ears and never stops shaking.

If only every song on the album were so compelling. Instead, Murphy lets the pace slacken - and as soon as it does, interest fades. Never as Tired as When I'm Waking Up is an attempt at Beatles-style balladry that slumps into a puddle of mawkishness. On Repeat, a song about repetitive basslines, repeats itself for so long that you start reaching for the off button.

Perhaps Murphy thought that an album of tracks as all-consuming as Disco Infiltrator and Daft Punk would have been too exhausting. But that's exactly what you get on the accompanying CD of previously released singles, a collection that challenges listeners to sit still knowing full well that it isn't possible. From Losing My Edge through Give It Up to Yeah, the momentum never falters: basslines pound, drums skitter and every second feels essential.

Murphy, though, is a man hellbent on undermining his own achievements. Remember that, and the shortcomings of his debut album feel oddly inevitable.


Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

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