Thoughts: LCD Soundsystem's candid and beautiful American Dream
Though the name suggests a grand critique of modern culture, LCD Soundsystem's American Dream is a more personal document. Here James Murphy dwells on his favorite subject, time, in his most focused effort to date.
The band, a touring group of performers, but on record mostly just Murphy, infamously "retired" in 2011 in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden. The reasons for their breakup seemed based on the concept of "going out on top," but the reason for their 2017 renaissance is cloudier. Judging by the lyrics here, Murphy still had things to say, and the results are sublime enough to warrant the return.
The songs featured on American Dream are lush, featuring the band's trademark widescreen approach to dance music. It leans less towards the pure dance of their first record and more closely resembles the balladry of 2010's This is Happening. The centerpiece here is "How Do You Sleep?", a pot of scathing water that boils over into an assault of pounding bass and synth. The lyrics and title are directed towards a former recording partner, and it's made extremely clear that the two aren't on good terms.
The other tracks are far less direct. This all-out attack is countered by the finale, a sprawling, glittering song named "Black Screen." The piece appears to be an ode to the late David Bowie, who Murphy collaborated with before his death. The instrumental outro acts as a musical tribute as well, reminiscent of Bowie's Berlin Trilogy.
"Tonite," another standout, acts as a kind of companion song to LCD Soundsystem's "Losing my Edge" and Sound of Silver's "All My Friends," combining the former's pretense with the latter's nostalgia. The song has Murphy coming to terms with the reality of aging and what it means to be an elder statesman of dance-punk, or whatever he'd call his music today. In a way it is the quintessential LCD song, at once both self-aware and extremely vulnerable.
Before I conclude, yes, I am aware that it will be difficult for a lot of people to care about a privileged white man's ramblings about his place in history. 2017 is a year where we should be paying attention to the marginalized and the oppressed. No, James Murphy doesn't address anything of relevance on his record named American Dream, which is unfortunate. But I am also a strong believer in being able to like something and still discuss its faults. Unlike Father John Misty's 2017 effort Pure Comedy which I frankly couldn't stand, Murphy at least strives to sound genuine, even if it is through an affected veneer.
Ultimately LCD Soundsystem has made another album the only way they know how, full of nods to the past, the present, and their future. James Murphy understands that he may never top the highs the band has experienced, but as long as he has a platform, he will continue to express his emotions through song.