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LCD Soundsystem - American Dream (Album Review)

Monday, 04 September 2017 Written by Jacob Brookman

In 2011, New York electro-rock band LCD Soundsystem played their last gig at Madison Square Garden and promptly disbanded. In the intervening time, frontman James Murphy acted, composed, worked on the Despacio soundsystem. Then he started writing songs again.

But, as he described in a recent interview with the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis, they “sounded like LCD Soundsystem”. As a result, the band are back together for their fourth studio release, ‘American Dream’.

The album is a smorgasbord of post-punk delights, funnelling ‘Berlin’-era David Bowie and elements of the Cure through Murphy’s world-class production. It’s a robust, varied and musically ambitious record that will likely find its way onto year-end lists come December.

Album opener Oh Baby is an electro homage to Suicide’s Dream Baby Dream, with Murphy crooning his way through a washy hinterland of nebulous synths. Its lyrics are soft, ephemeral, patient and, like much of this album, it arrives at its six minute length without ever overstaying its welcome.

From here, we head into more familiar LCD territory. Other Voices and Change Yr Mind match pulsing beats with Murphy’s brand of introspective wit, elaborate arrangements and an approach to songwriting that is surely informed by remixing.

The latter, in particular, dials up the Bowie factor, with guitar frippery directly recalling ‘Lodger’ and ‘Scary Monsters’. The music manages to retain its integrity despite clearly taking its creative cues from the late icon, and that is probably a testament to the panoply of musical idioms Bowie employed as much as Murphy's respectful repurposing.

It’s appropriate, perhaps, that Murphy's lyrics reflect on the creative challenges that come with being 47-year-old pop star. “I’ve just got nothing left to say,” he deadpans. “I’m not dangerous now [...] I’m just too old for it now.” It is a theme more entertainingly rendered on emotional haircut: “You got numbers on your phone of the dead that you can’t delete / And you got life-affirming moments in your past that you can’t repeat.”

With LCD Soundsystem, though, the vocals nearly always avoid shoegazing tedium. There is generally too much focus on the groove and on making people dance and this album is all the better for it. In the '00s, LCD Soundsystem provided a blueprint for a seemingly endless procession of dance-indie hipsters (think Empire of the Sun or MGMT) but 'American Dream' positions them squarely as the most enduring and interesting of that group.

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