LCD Soundsystem: American Dream review – sombre but satisfying

(DFA/Columbia)
The spectre of mortality stalks LCD’s comeback album but mainman James Murphy seizes the day in style

LCD Soundsystem had rarely put a foot wrong before they announced a huge farewell in 2011 – and then reformed, with what many felt was indecent haste, in 2015. But LCD main man James Murphy had a good excuse for bringing back the band: his idol, David Bowie, thought he should. (If you took Bowie’s passing badly, just imagine how Murphy must have felt, with his three albums riddled with Bowie tributes, and a dream-come-true contributor credit on Blackstar.)

On this evidence, Bowie was not wrong. Tonite – released ahead of the album – is as succulent an iteration of LCD’s core squelch as fans could wish for. Accompanied by guitarist Al Doyle (Hot Chip), Murphy sets up a motorik disco groove mighty enough to carry the weight of Murphy’s pin-sharp musings on death and music.

Pop stares down the abyss, Murphy seems to be saying, so carpe diem – except, this being LCD Soundsystem, it’s more about seizing the night, where three minutes can unfurl into for ever. “And we’re frankly thankful for the market psychology you’re hipping us to,” he offers, notably less sarcastic than of old.

It takes five tracks to get to this sweet, propulsive midpoint. The journey there – through the late 1970s and early 80s – is slow, but well worth it. Few of these latest LCD songs land perfectly on the first listen; seismically, there are 10 of them on American Dream, one more than usual. What’s Murphy doing, crooning a simple love song, Oh Baby, the album opener? Why the oblique post-punk of Change Yr Mind, when we could be dancing? But each song accrues heft the further in you go.

Play Other Voices three times, it starts to sound like a classic. Nancy Whang, a sorely underused LCD asset, contributes vocal sass here while some Middle Eastern synth countermelodies weave majestically in and out, Doppler-like and disorienting, as Murphy builds himself up into another tizzy.

American Dream’s title feels political, but little here really addresses the wider state of the nation – unless you count the bewildering rise of “the bullying children of the fabulous, raffling off limited edition shoes”. Ever since LCD’s debut single, Losing My Edge, Murphy has been writing music about music, and fretting about change and age; American Dream finds him, at 47, not so much worried about cutting it with the younger set but with an ever more acute sense of time slipping away (“that shit’s a dictator”), of the passing of “the Leonards and the Lous”, the friendships lost. How Do You Sleep? is uncharacteristically direct and vicious, a take-down of a one-time friend.

Watch the video for Tonite by LCD Soundsystem.

It’s instructional to note that one of the reasons Murphy broke up LCD in the first place was to avoid getting too famous. The dirgey 12-minute closer, Black Screen, is part of an insurance policy. But Black Screen is, in all likelihood, about Murphy’s friendship with Bowie, and all the more intriguing for it. Quite how Murphy manages to turn all this sombreness into a great LCD album defies logic, but he has landed on his feet, yet again.

Contributor

Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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