LCD Soundsystem | This Is Happening (DFA)

There’s no question that he will continue to work on projects that will satisfy his muse, and LCD Soundsystem might not yet be done for good.

James Murphy, the driving force behind electro-rock powerhouse LCD Soundsystem, has been very vocal about a couple of things leading up to the release of the group’s latest, This Is Happening: He loves LCD Soundsystem, and this will be their last album. In many ways, Murphy is this generation’s David Byrne. He is more of an artist than a singer, able to simultaneously embrace and confound genre tropes and fan expectations—all while wielding the lyrical pen like a skewer. Murphy, like Byrne, is an artistic freight train—huge, forceful, consigned to wander the landscape ceaselessly in search of new cargo. No one band could possibly be the single track he would stay on forever. 

Fitting, then, that This Is Happening finds Murphy channeling his inner Byrne more strongly than ever. The allure of real and true homecoming, dissatisfaction with the hassles of being a successful band in a callous music industry, commentary on “the scene” that feels more weary than ironic…these themes resonate throughout the record like the tolling of massive church bells. The album’s closer, “Home,” sets these ideas dancing together: the song title itself; the repeated line “You’re afraid of what you need,” the soaring, wordless chorus, “No one ever knows what you’re talking about / So I guess you’re already there,” a perfect line that would sound flagrantly derivative of Byrne if it came from anyone other than Murphy.

But for all this solemn discussion and exploration of big themes, This Is Happening is packed from front to back with some serious ass shaking type of music. The album’s opener, “Dance Yrself Clean,” starts quietly but suddenly shifts in an unexpected and brilliant transition to the band’s signature fast, percussive, funky electro rock. “Pow Pow” opens with driving distorted drums and gradually expands to a lush soundscape of keys and synth effects. That song, along with “Drunk Girls”—which contains another amazing line: “Drunk girls know that love is an astronaut/ He comes home but he’s never the same"—also serve as a reminder that Murphy (again like Byrne) has a sly sense of the sublime in the ridiculous.

Murphy claims that This Is Happening was never meant to be valedictory. Whether that’s true or not, it undoubtedly feels like a farewell. There’s no question that he will continue to work on projects that will satisfy his muse, and LCD Soundsystem might not yet be done for good. But if This Is Happening is the end for the band, one thing can be said: Without question, this is a powerful and brilliant album—easily the best Murphy and LCD Soundsystem have ever produced. A | John Shepherd

 

 
 

 

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