heck your calendars, and you’ll find that it’s been almost three years since James Murphy and company released the first LCD Soundsystem single, “Losing My Edge.” This is surprising not only because the single still sounds as great as it did then, but because since “Losing My Edge,” public excitement over the group hasn’t dipped in the slightest. Over the course of the last three years, LCD have done what only a couple of years ago would’ve seemed impossible—they’ve become a hipster household name without releasing a single album. By putting out just a handful of singles (essentially one a year) and making a few key guest appearances, LCD have still managed to stay firmly in the public’s eye, so much so that an album almost seems like an afterthought.
What’s more, it’s all been fantastic. Prior to the release of LCD Soundsystem, almost every LCD fan worth his cowbell has made a CD-R of the group’s a-sides, b-sides and other leaked tracks, and that CD-R—which is essentially included here as a bonus disc—is practically a masterpiece of an LP in its own right. While their discopunk peers—!!!, the Liars, Radio 4—have either jumped ship or gone down with the vessel, LCD’s stock has, against all odds, continued to rise exponentially. And with last year’s unanimously celebrated “Yeah,” the release of member-sharing production team The DFA’s acclaimed Compilation #2, and Murphy’s excellent guest spots on Soulwax’s “NY Excuse” and Felix da Housecat’s Devin Dazzle and the Neon Fever album, the moment is finally right for LCD’s full-length mission statement.
And, simply put, it’s a hit. It’s not exactly a home-run, mind you—LCD Soundsystem is not an album that results in blown minds and logic-defying epiphanies. But after disappointing would-be breakthrough releases from so many of the discopunk frontlines, this is an album that’s more easily classifiable as “great” for what it isn’t, rather than what it is. It’s not inconsistent. It’s not a total deviation from what we know of the group. It’s never dull. And, most importantly—it is in no way a let down.
Whereas albums from The Rapture and !!! relied on their breakthrough singles for anchoring, LCD doesn’t use any of their big singles as crutches for LCD Soundsystem—though devoted fans might have already found their way to “Daft Punk is Playing at My House,” the album’s stomping fuzz-rock opener, or “Tribulations,” the album’s centerpiece and arguable highlight, through early internet leaks. Apart from that, the only track here to have been officially released is the album’s lead single “Movement”—a drum-machine propelled no-wave anthem that perfects the Mark E. Smith-isms that Murphy first tried out on Felix da Housecat’s “What She Wants,” and marks the group’s first a-side to totally break from discopunk.
So there are at least six brand new songs on display here, most of which are fairly thrilling extensions of previously perfected LCD formulas. “On Repeat” is the obvious successor to “Yeah (Crass Version),” an eight-minute floor filler that gradually intensifies until its cacophonous climax, while “Too Much Love” takes after the record’s “pretentious” b-side, starting with a slower, more seductive groove and ending in a glorious funk-punk jam session. “Thrills” takes after the all-on percussion assault of “Movement,” where “Disco Infiltrator” bubbles and slinks like that record’s flip, “Yr City’s a Sucker.”
Still, the album manages to throw a pair of genuine curveballs, songs totally out of the realm of anything the group (or their famous production team, for that matter) have done before. “Never As Tired as When I’m Waking Up” is a glorious comedown from the relentless one-two of “Tribulations” and “Movement,” a gorgeous, sun-soaked Beatle-esque tune that serves as the perfect palate cleanser before side two kicks into full gear. And even better is the record’s closer, the aptly titled “Great Release,” which sounds like the last reverberation from Brian Eno’s echo chamber at full blast—the music would draw comparisons to Eno without Murphy’s vocals, but it’s his spot-on approximation of the ambient legend’s voice that makes the song such a successful pastiche.
Offsetting potential complaints that the group’s early singles still aren’t widely available on an LCD release, the group had the foresight to attach a bonus disc to the album, which contains the A’s and B’s to each of their four singles (besides “Movement,” which is already included on the first disc). With this bonus disc in place, LCD Soundsystem are officially the first of the genre’s hype acts to not disappoint with their breakthrough effort in the slightest. Discopunk fans, get ready to breathe a big sigh of relief.
STYLUSMAGAZINE.COM'S ALBUM OF THE WEEK: JANUARY 31 - FEBRUARY 5, 2005