If LCD Soundsystem has taught me one thing, it is the value of patience. Their previous record, Sound of Silver, is counted among the highest echelons of indie canon, but I never cared for it that much. I think that’s partially because I didn’t really “get it.” The band’s MO is writing songs that are double, if not triple, the length of your typical track; these slowly build by layering samples and beats up, breaking them down, rearranging them, sometimes multiple times. It’s music that requires both time and attention, and when I heard that This Is Happening was coming out, I resolved to give it enough of both.
The payoff is totally worth it. The opening track, ‘Dance Yrself Clean‘, is quiet for the first three minutes, with a diminished pitter-patter percussion line, and James Murphy’s hilarious lyrics:
Ah aaaaah present company
Excluded every time
Ah aaaaaah present company
The best that you can find
Talking like a jerk
Except you are an actual jerk
And living proof that sometimes friends are mean
…and then it explodes with thick bass and punching rhythms, and no shortage of synth. The change is so violent it can catch you off guard at first, but when you know its coming, the release is a masterful example of how effective this group can be when they bide their time.
Another favorite of mine is ‘I Can Change‘, which focus more on lyrical wordplay than radical variations in volume levels, but every bit as fun of a song:
This is the time the very best time
So give me a line and take me home
Take me over
But dashing the hopes, dashing the hopes
And smashing the pride
The morning’s got you on the ropes
And love is a murderer , love is a murderer
But if she calls you tonight
Everything is all right
Yeah, we know
And love is a curse shoved in a hearse
Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry
And this is coming from me
While it is not as technically entrancing as the lyrics of Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse), Murphy certainly gives him a run for his money, and it is effort well spent (as can be seen also particularly well on ‘Pow Pow’). All of the songs come off as playful, direct, and honest, each of which the band conveys through the unlikely medium of indie-electronica. The meta anti-song ‘You Wanted A Hit’ is laughable almost a priori because the song is nine minutes long; the scary part being that it’s so catchy they may have made one on accident.
In a rare moment, ‘Somebody’s Calling Me’ lacks the texture and variation of the other tracks to a fault. It’s slow, drudging beat makes it feel that the song is much longer than it is, because the whole thing is so boring. Fortunately, the closer ‘Home’ brings things back where they ought to be, leaving you at the inescapable conclusion that LCD Soundsystem is undoubtedly at the top of their game, pushing the envelope of how much fun you can fit into a single record.