Posted in Album of the Month

SEPTEMBER : LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

So first things first. Let’s celebrate we’ve been running this blog merrily for more than FIVE YEARS! Well done us. And what a constant source of great music and discussion it’s been.

And how apt that we turn to a band after whom the blog was (kind of) named. And a band that has glued us all together musically for many years. We’re talking, of course, about James Murphy and his merry band of LCD wizards.

Second things second. This is a really good album. He’s at the top his game. It’s LCD Soundsystem FFS, what else was it going to be? What I’d like to get into is this: is it a GREAT album? And can something be a GREAT album if it wears its inflences so strongly on its sleeve that it’s impossible to ignore them.

Let’s start with the simple positives. The songwriting is great, and all the lyrical content, with his obsession about getting older, loneliness, disaffection, it’s as as good as anything he’s done. AND, despite the LOOOOOONG running time, I think they pull it off. I was a bit daunted when I saw list of 6, 7, 8, 9 minute songs – but on the whole, they’re little works of art that build their own internal momentum.

So what about that influences thing? Murphy’s mentioned in a number of interviews being inspired by Bowie to make another album, and to do exactly what he wanted to do, regardless of what the audience wants. He’s sure done that. But my goodness, those influences are SO plain the mix. Here’s a list of ones that jumped out on me on pretty much a first listen:

Emotional Haircut – Jesus H Christ, this is pure Joy Division. Could it sound any more like it was produced by Martin Hannett? That drum mix is quintessential Joy Division.

How Do You Sleep? – Oh man, name your early 80s influences. Siouxise? Cure? New Order? Bauhaus? Hell, this could be a bloody band from Leeds in 1982.

Change Your Mind – That guitar part is STRAIGHT from Bowie’s Scary Monsters. You think I’m exaggerating?

I could go on. There’s heaps of New Order and Joy Division influences, but Bowie is the veil than hangs over it all.

And then there are even times when LCD feel like they’re doing a cover of themselves. Do you know what I mean?

Call The Police

Other Voices (again, man, that Robert Fripp-esque guitar that could be from any number of Bowie albums!)

– both of these could have appeared on any of the LCD albums since Day 1. And they feel both wonderfully familiar, but also it’s as I’ve actually heard them before.

So I guess what I’m asking is: does this matter? We talk a lot on this blog about influences and being derivative and being original. Will that, in the end, mean that this is an album I play for quite a bit, then shelve because, when it comes down to it, I might as well listen to Unknown Pleasures or Heroes? Or has Murphy pulled this off with such brio and force and passion, that he’s moulded all the sounds he’s pilfered from his heroes into something new?

Right now, I don’t know. I’m so enjoying listening to it. But I do have a nagging voice in the back of my head. And occassionally, I’ve laughed out loud at how obvious he’s been about stealing a sound.

Over to you, Brothers. And here’s to another 5 years!

7 thoughts on “SEPTEMBER : LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

  1. Well, if there was ever a “fan album”, I suspect this may well be it. If this was the first time you listened to LCD I’m not convinced you’d be back for more afterwards. It’s quite dense and dark and not particularly… is it OK to say fun at this point? When Mr Murphy and co are on form they bring out some of the most astonishing life affirming sounds and hooks and whilst there’s plenty of techy electronica going on here to admire, much of American Dream is intentionally gloomy. Not that there’s anything wrong with going the full Gary Numan of course but there are only flashes of what traditionally makes LCD the go-to act of choice. This album takes quite a while to get going and after the promising start of Oh Baby, we only really get down to business when Tonite kicks in – a track which could appear on any of their albums and is a rare foray into the upbeat, chugalong sound that we’re used to. After the anthemic, rousing Call the Police, it’s back to the moody, introspective and overlong template that covers much of this release. This is what I mean about it being a fan album – for the casual listener there’s a glut of more easily accessible and enjoyable material elsewhere and only now and again do I feel treated to a glimpse of the excitement that is usually attached to one of their albums. It’s not to say that American Dream doesn’t have quality but occasionally it feels like a chore and not the rewarding experience usually received from this band.

  2. OH LCD, you have been missed. I remember when James Murphy announced that he was making his last ever LCD album. I couldn’t get my head around it.. how could such great music just end? I always thought (and hoped) he’s bring it back and he has. In the meantime we have spent 5 years finding new music… but really we’d trade most of it for a little more LCD.

    That’s an interesting perspective Paul. I agree, I think LCD with many people are a slow burn. He or they were for me. I remember brother Joseph going bonkers over them and me sort of getting it but not being over bothered. I will say that when it clicks, it’s more of a bang than a click.

    With LCD fans, there seems to be a very wide spectrum as everyone seems to have a favourite album and they are always very opinionated why they are right and you are wrong (including me). This seems to be the case with this album. Everyone likes it but to different degrees.

    For me, I’m in the camp that is really happy with the album. It’s something new but still heavily within the core LCD realms. Musically it’s spot on. Every sound LCD has made on this album has been well thought out and has earned its’ place. Lyrically I think that James Murphy continues to grow. In short he’s a middle age man that is observing the same stuff as all other middle aged men are.. and that’s why we love him so much!

    I will say that even if he was burping in a cup, it would be new music from LCD Soundsystem, and I’d find a way to like it. Luckily he’s made an effort and it for me has instant appeal.

    1. Gentlemen. Good afternoon. A new LCD album. A statement that makes me nervous if I am honest and mostly because of how much I love them / James Murphy. I was a little disappointed with This Is Happening, something Nolan and I had quite heated debate about at the time. That album has grown on me since the early days but it is not my go-to LCD album. In terms of regularity of listening (i) Sounds of Silver is no.1 by some distance, then (hold your horses David, I know its not really an LCD Album (or is it?)) (ii) 45:33 gets LOADS of air time as it so play-while-you-work-friendly (iii) Introns (or LCD Soundsystem Bonus Disk as I first new it) (iv) LCD Soundsystem (v) This is Happening.

      For me the peak moment of James Murphy’s creative balance (original ideas (techniques?) balanced with influences) is Sound of Silver and its for this reason I think that I love it the most.

      I totally get David’s point about them doing an impression of themselves though. A previous AOTM (sorry can’t recall the album) was criticised, by David for having formulaic tracks – 2 tracks from formula A, 3 tracks from formula B etc. I think LCD are very guilty of this approach.
      Formula A = Radio Friendly, sub-5 minute sing-alongs e.g. Daft Punk is Playing at My House, North American Scum, Drunk Girls,
      Formula B = Bowie infused introspective 6 minute ‘proper songs’ e.g. Someone Great, All My Friends, All I want
      Formula C = production basedpunky bangers e.g. Pow, Emotional Haircut, Us V Them, etc
      Formula D = piano based introspectives e.g. never as tired, new york I love you …

      For me This is Happening wore these formula’s too obviously, American Dream probably follows this pattern but adds a new formula that I didn’t recognise until I read Paul’s words Formula E – dirgey, hard work tracks. Unfortunately there are 3 or 4 of these in a row on this album and it suffers for it. The highs are high but the ‘not highs’ feel different.

      Lyrically, I think its spot on the money … again!

      I do love it though! Ha. He could do a turd and as Nolan said, I’d find a way to love it. I love that LCD are the commonality between our very different musical tastes. I can’t think of anyone else who comes near to unite us in shared love, adoration and middle aged man-love.

      1. Funny that most of us love it despite its obvious faults! I guess as you say, we’re suckers for them no matter what they do.
        On the point about the dirgey, hard-work tracks – the album is not helped by the programming of the songs – I like Track 1 (oh baby), but it does start the album very slowly – and the next 2 or 3 tracks in a row are all a) dense and b) loooong. I’m REALLY enjoying running with it, where the length actually feels more manageable, but sat at my desk, I am tuning out quite a bit once you hit the fourth 6 minute song in a row…

  3. I also love Oh Baby but it feels like it needs an upbeat, higher energy track 2. Good call on the track sequencing. In terms of track length, one of the things I’ve always loved about LCD is the longer than average track length. I guess when the tracks ticking all the boxes you don’t want it to end / don’t notice the length. Perhaps the fact that you’re feeling the length is further comment about the quality? A bit like when you notice beautifully rendered backgrounds in animations? Perhaps the stories not very engaging?

  4. Brothers, oh brothers, I must apologise for my lateness. A combo of New baby and no laptop buggered me for a good two months, and I’m only coming up for air now.

    There are some great, long, heartfelt responses here already and I need to wade into them properly but what I will say first off is this:


    It was a slow burner. I didn’t feel it for a good ten listens (And, my god, you compare it ruthlessly to all their other work, so much is it loved), but after that things clicked and I got a bit obsessed with it for a couple of weeks. I listened to almost no music but I waded through this a good 30 times.

    It’s honestly – in my opinion – some of Murphy’s best work. It’s mature, it’s heavy, it’s really not as dancey as earlier stuff (I think that I found hardest at first) but when you get into the melodies and lyrics it’s as dense and meaningful as anything he’s written, and as a 40-something man with a family, resonates more than ever. I shed more than a tear listening to ‘oh baby’ and looking at my new daughter.

    The band are so tight as well, and while I ended up missing seeing them live (I’m still not over that) they are at the top of their game from seeing other video, so for all the cynicism, this is a triumphant return. There’s all the influences writ large, but that’s fine. They’re still LCD. There’s no pastiche for me. That’s why it works.

    I need to go full geek on the tracks when I’m at my laptop. But oh my, this is so good.

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