Before someone got the brilliant idea to shorten ‘electronic dance music’ to ‘EDM’, back when DJs were only rock stars in Europe, teaching the hipsters how to dance was only LCD Soundsystem. Virtually inventing the ‘dance-punk’ label, main man James Murphy made a huge splash with songs like “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” from their 2005 self-titled debut. Two more records, 2007 follow-up Sound of Silver (QRO review) and 2010’s This Is Happening (QRO review), proved that they were still at the top of what had since become a very big genre. So big that Murphy decided to call it quits, with a big final Madison Square Garden show in 2011 (and a string of Terminal 5 shows when scalpers bought all the MSG tickets – QRO photos).
Yet it only took five years for the band to reunite (a much shorter timespan than most twenty-first century musical reunions), headlining massive festivals (QRO photos) to massive acclaim, even playing Saturday Night Live this spring. So the pressure is most definitely ‘on’ for their anticipated new album, American Dream (witness the backlash to just the debut of the album cover…). But it still succeeds, though not quite in all the ways one would have expected.
Now, to be clear, there’s still a lot of the LCD that got to you in the first place. Murphy’s rambling dance commentary is still here on great tracks such as “Other Voices”, “Tonite”, “Call the Police”, and “Emotional Haircut”, his stream-of-thought sarcasm laid over growing beat processions. But there’s a distinctly darker edge to Dream, with loss as opposed to party on pieces like opener “Oh Baby”, “I Used To”, “How Do You Sleep?”, and closer “Black Screen”. This is not the Murphy whose greatest worry was “Losing My Edge”.
This shift in tone may somewhat disappoint those who just want new reasons to get on the dance floor, and the change isn’t done perfectly (witness the screech to “Change Yr Mind”). But a different America calls for a different LCD Soundsystem, the one you really need over the one you might only want.