James Poole reflection

LCD Soundsystem: Talking Heads for the 2000s

Two bands stand astride The Atlantic. One, from the UK, never puts a foot wrong, and has been constantly innovating, reshaping, and challenging their audience since the early 90s. The other, from the US, has for the best part of ten years been providing nothing short of unbridled joy in the form of music – echoing their influences, yet NEVER sounding like immitators.

Radiohead & LCD Soundsystem. If they were the only two bands going, you really wouldn’t have much to complain about. I won’t have a bad word said about either of them. I’ll fight you over them. Properly.

And so, given where I stand on these bands (and, I can barely believe that I haven’t been banging on about my love for them since kicking this website off), this week provides a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, along with most other right-minded music lovers, am jumping for joy at the prospect of ‘The King of Limbs’. I’ll be setting my alarm on Saturday, jumping out of bed, and rushing to my computer to check out the download of Radiohead’s new album. I can’t wait. But, my jubilation is somewhat tainted by the news of LCD Soundsystem’s departure.

I’ll save my thoughts on Radiohead for my next post…

For now, let’s talk LCD Soundsystem. Let’s talk about a band that sound like a mix tape featuring The Fall, early 80s Talking Heads, and Joy Division, but compiled by someone who is really into their house music. Let’s talk about a band that is clearly a labour of love. Let’s talk about a band that really have epitomised good music for the 2000s.

And, it’s this point that really matters: they have epitomised good music because it’s all about the music. Artistic integrity by the boat load – coupled with a clear desire to enjoy the music – really sets LCD Soundsystem apart. It’s not about image. Look at James Murphy (let’s face it – as the nucleus of LCD Soundsystem, he pretty much is the band much as Mark E. Smith is The Fall). He’s just a normal bloke. He just happens to be bloody brilliant.

Take their first album. Tell me you don’t like ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’. Go on, tell me. And what about ‘Disco Infiltrator’? I caught them live a few months ago, and ‘Losing My Edge’ was a highlight. Clearly mocking the ‘cool’ world of the London and New York trendsetters. Let’s take this final song as an example, however. It’s ‘Seen And Not Seen’ by Talking Heads. Yet, it’s not. Expertly managing to pay homage, yet make something new and exciting. James Murphy provided a calling card and a half.

‘Sound of Silver’ upped the ante. The clever band from the debut album – the band that could twist house music, 90s Manchester and New Wave New York into one – managed to craft an album which stunned with its depth. You have songs that seem like a natural extension of the debut, like ‘Get Innocuous!’, but then you also have ‘All My Friends’. It’s heartstopping. You have the note perfect ‘Someone Great’. Better songs will be written, but not many. The title track, again, echoes Talking Heads – though a slightly ballsier version. And, let’s not forget ‘North American Scum’. James Murphy knows that paying his dues to his Manchester forefathers leads people to associate the band with the UK – and addresses it head on. ‘North American Scum’ is authentic Manchester. And not. Again – James Murphy managed to balance the influences, and create something unique.

And, to what looks like their final studio recording, ‘This Is Happening’. One of the best albums of 2010 – it would probably have been ‘the’ best if not for I Am Kloot. It further refines their sound, and brings in more influences. ‘I Can Change’ pays heavy dues to 80s electronica. ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ is just filthy. Properly filthy. And ‘Pow Pow’ is, again, Talking Heads.

With no more LCD Soundsystem, where do we go for our fix of intelligent dance music with undertones of 80s New York and 90s Manchester? It’s a tough niche to crack. Any takers?

James Murphy: I take my hat off to you, sir.

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