LCD Soundsystem play Glasgow dates
James Murphy shaped our soundtrack to the 2000s with LCD Soundsystem’s thrilling electro-disco. There’s more where that came from, finds David Pollock
‘You wanted a hit,’ sings James Murphy on his new song of the same name, ‘but maybe we don’t do hits. I try / and try / it ends up feeling kind of wrong.’ Through the entirety of LCD Soundsystem’s much anticipated third record This is Happening, it’s the closest he gets to a manifesto. But what a kiss-off to the music industry if, as reported, this is the group’s last album. ‘You wanted it real / but can you tell me what’s real? / there’s lights and sounds and stories / music’s just a part,’ Murphy implores over nine minutes (including a glistening oriental ambient intro) of bouncing, repetitive guitar crunch and drum machine snap: ‘we won’t be your babies any more.’
The song sounds like an era not so much ending as heading out to a party in a warehouse somewhere and telling you it’s never coming home. It sounds like everything the music industry should have learned over the cataclysmic last decade, by the man who helped define that decade in a big way. And you will want to dance your ass off to it.
If there’s one adjective that sums up This is Happening, it’s ‘Bowie’. This record is Bowie as hell, but not in the chameleonic shedding of personae sense. Since co-founding the pivotal dance label DFA, then releasing LCD’s self-titled debut in 2005, and through 2007’s Sound of Silver, Murphy – the core of the band, regardless of the talent of Pat Mahoney, Nancy Whang and the others who play alongside him – has threatened to make a record as jointly committed to the dancefloor and the pop sensibility of the average listener; as compulsively New York and as representative of the band’s absolute diluted essence as Bowie’s Let’s Dance was.
It’s there to see on the cover, with Murphy sharply-suited in synthetic fibres and frozen between Bowie’s pose on the front of Lodger and David Byrne’s on Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, and to hear in the firmly stated ‘well, this is how we do hits’ line of ‘You Wanted a Hit’. A note of no compromise has been struck, and by refusing to retreat from the nightclub and into the early evening realm of landfill guitar rock ‘with an electro edge’, Murphy is reclaiming territory.
Where LCD Soundsystem slightly indulged itself with lengthy, repetitive tracks and Sound of Silver pandered a bit to those with a narrow idea of what an album is there for, This is Happening draws all towards it. Only punky opening single ‘Drunk Girls’ is less than five minutes long. Otherwise, the careening, shouty electro-house of ‘One Touch’, the hyperactive afrobeat percussion of ‘Pow Pow’ – reminiscent of rhythms on the first album – and the languid, nocturnal, ‘Nightclubbing’ drone of ‘Somebody’s Calling Me’ pull the record along. Earlier, the guitar-laden ‘All I Want’ has wrong-footed us into believing it’s a direct descendant of The Strokes, before evolving into a more melodic Can.
Completed just shy of Murphy’s 40th birthday, this record is an undoubted instant classic, albeit one which might be seen in many years’ time as more a relic of the 2000s than the 2010s. Apparently, its creator is moving into film soundtracks from here, having recently worked on the soundtrack to the upcoming Noah Baumbach-directed Greenberg, out in June. These imminent live shows, in fact, should suggest to us whether or not he’s leaving the party at just the right time.
Barrowlands, Glasgow, Wed 28 & Thu 29 Apr. This is Happening is released on Mon 17 May. The Greenberg soundtrack is out now.