LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy dug himself a hole with comments suggesting the retirement of the group and their ‘final show’ at Madison Square Gardens was “a bit larky”. But the New York band’s fourth album, american dream, will have LCD’s critics forgetting that they ever did wrong and remembering what everyone loves so much about them – their great music. For fans that remained faithful to Murphy and co after the group’s supposed retirement in 2011, american dream is the apology letter they fantasised over for all these years. While the emotionally-charged electronica isn’t quite the same electro-punk freak out in the basement, anyone that loved LCD before will find solace in this record.
The subdued approach from Murphy on american dream may be connected to the pressure and scrutiny surrounding the band’s reunifying. When LCD split back in 2011, fans were left shattered. A huge deal was made of the retirement, too. A sold-out Madison Square Garden show and a documentary surrounding the farewell tour was created. So when the band announced they were getting back together, their diehard fans felt somewhat betrayed. On ‘change yr mind’, Murphy chronicles his mindset throughout the process of retiring and subsequently reuniting LCD. After the decision to break up the band, he’s “feeling safe with it now” and “getting used to it now.” Further on, Murphy justifies his choice to reunite LCD, continually repeating “you can change your mind” in an effort to really hammer the point home.
LCD are renowned for their party starting ability. Their introductory tracks on all previous albums represent this ability – ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ on This Is Happening, ‘Get Innocuous’ on Sound Of Silver and ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’ on LCD’s debut album. However, for american dream, Murphy begins the record in slow style with the emotive break-up ballad ‘oh baby’. Taking significant influence from Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’, ‘oh baby’ sets the tone for much of the remainder of the album. Apart from cuts like ‘other voices’, ‘call the police’ and ‘emotional haircut’, Murphy remarkably takes it down a notch for american dream from This Is Happening and its constant raptures. It’s quite easily LCD’s most restrained project yet, but while they prove they can successfully pull it off, being restrained isn’t really what LCD is all about.
When Murphy first started recording under LCD, it was for the fun. Murphy wanted to create music that would make people dance. On american dream, the fun, humour and energy has dispersed to a degree. Even the upbeat moments in ‘other voices’ and ‘emotional haircut’ lack a genuine party kick. The lyrics from ‘Too Much Love’, a track from LCD’s debut album, has come back to haunt Murphy: “What will you say when the day comes / When it’s no fun.” That day may have come with the release of american dream. On ‘change yr mind’, as Murphy attempts to verify LCD’s relevance, he concedes that he’s “got nothing left to say.” If there’s no fun in LCD, is there still any point? Yes, so Murphy can pay tribute to fallen hero David Bowie with the 12-minute spine-tingling odyssey ‘black screen’.
After a retirement and years out of action, nobody should have predicted the same LCD to re-emerge. While american dream is an unexpected turn and probably not what LCD fans wanted from Murphy, the dour outlook is a fresh change of pace from their non-stop disco on previous albums. Five years ago, there was slim to no chance of LCD reuniting, so the ungrateful fans have to remind themselves that at the end of the day, it’s a near-miracle that american dream even exists. That’s not to take anything away from the record. american dream stands as a terrific and passionate comeback, and one that will no doubt give new and old fans of LCD at least some, but mostly huge joy.