Mid-2000s indie music was a genre caught up in its own obsessive clout, and at the center of the storm was LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy. After fighting against pretension in music for most of its early career with tracks such as “Losing my Edge,” LCD Soundsystem quickly evolved into an indie symbol, turning the band into exactly what it feared. Now, with the group’s return after its short hiatus, the artificiality lingers, but the tunes are still there.
Creating some of the seminal albums of his time, James Murphy is an artist’s artist in the strongest way possible. His music is complex, weaving and telling stories with repetitive and hypnotic electronic beats. Basically, anyone who isn’t obsessed with music would be immediately put off by his records’ initial lack of payoff. Returning from their surprisingly short six-year hiatus, LCD Soundsystem’s newest album american dream gives off similar vibes with its art and basic title, but lying underneath is some of the most passionate tunes Murphy has penned since the mid-2000s.
Kicking off with a surprisingly downtempo opener, “oh baby,” LCD Soundsystem announces its return with little gusto. With lyrics such as “Oh sugar / You came to me / Could all be a bad thing / Doing harm,” the track reads as if an 8-year-old tried to pen a deep poem for their long-lost lover. In retrospect, “oh baby” feels like Murphy’s strange attempt to put a wall up around his work, wanting it to only be accessed by the most dedicated of listeners.
Fortunately, the album doesn’t continue its slow streak, picking up in speed with “other voices,” a song that sounds like Murphy’s best David Byrne/Talking Heads impression. Still, american dream doesn’t get truly interesting until it hits “how do you sleep?,” a nine-minute epic that builds into a moving conclusion.
From this fifth track until the end, american dream puts out one moving song after another, making the listener regret giving the first four songs of this LP a chance. Tracks such as “tonite” and “call the police” are obvious standouts, with the former standing as a throwback to the angular beats and drums of early LCD Soundsystem and the latter bringing a fresh indie rock sound to the band’s repertoire. When the LP slows down again with “american dream,” Murphy makes it worthwhile, singing some of his best lyrics of the album with a romantic plea for the innocence of a time when he truly believed in the American dream.
Concluding with “black screen,” a slow-burning song of loss, Murphy eulogizes David Bowie, bringing a Brian Eno feeling to the track and wrapping everything up nicely. After a few listens to american dream, it is obvious that LCD Soundsystem hasn’t shed the stuck-up attitude that plagues it as a group, no matter how often James Murphy might say he wishes for that element of his music to disappear. Yet, built into many songs is the passion and drive the indie scene has lacked since James Murphy took a brief leave of absence.
Longtime fans of the band will find themselves at home with this LP, ready to sit down with a cocktail and get lost in its telling tales of loss and letting go. Everyone else will take one listen to the album’s opening track and remember exactly why they disliked LCD Soundsystem in the first place. A decade later, nothing has changed about LCD Soundsystem, and it’s doubtful that anything ever will.
- Rating: 6/10