One man punk outfit goes out with bang
LCD Soundsystem, the gargantuan punk-dance-pop project of James Murphy, has been a highly dependable source of tunes that blur the line between innovation and accessibility. Over eight years and throughout two albums, Murphy has operated in this area as an antihero of hip. On This Is Happening, his third and allegedly last album as LCD Soundsystem, Murphy succeeds in blurring those boundaries more fantastically than ever before. This Is Happening represents the culmination of Murphyâs artistic work thus far, his artistic pinnacle; and if it is indeed his last, well, there isnât a better way to leave.
Even without this knowledge, the album would still sound like a farewell, a fact of which Murphy is undoubtedly aware. The album standout âAll I Wantâ is the aural manifestation of fleeting moments, and it is simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking.
Murphy tears through âAll I Wantâ with a heroic finality. The chorus All I want is your pity / All I want is your bitter tears is a throwaway, a lovely little nothing that is wisely awash with screechy guitars and poppy keys. But when Murphy promises, From now on, Iâm someone different / Because itâs no fun to be predicting, the massive scale of the album up to that point feels justified and frighteningly definitive, as if this is the last song youâll ever hear.
Though âAll I Wantâ is only the halfway mark of this album, itâs still a hugely important moment in the albumâs progression. The song marks the first time it really, truly hits listeners: This is happening.
Murphy has always been very self-aware, and the album titleâs reflexivity is pertinent in more ways than one. On first listen, the album seems to fly by the skin of its teeth, an immediate and affecting portrait for the now generation. Left behind piano flubs and uncut comments begin and end some tracks, giving the feel of a tossed off accidental masterpiece in the vein of Skip Spenceâs OAR, an album essentially summed up by Murphyâs title.
Murphy is too meticulous for that, and This Is Happening is also an apt, bittersweet moniker for the carefully crafted career retrospective album that heâs created.
From the tongue-in-cheek earworm âDrunk Girlsâ to the overtly Daft Punk-y âOne Touch,â Murphy hits all the familiar bases, but he really is covering new ground here. Lyrically and thematically, This Is Happening is a distinct departure from the first two albums. Paranoia, sass and â for the first time â personal detachment are the sensations driven home in these highly danceable tunes. Surely the recording of the album in Los Angeles, away from Murphyâs native New Jersey, was an influence, but there is more going on than that.
This is happening. This could be the last audible document of James Murphyâs genius by way of LCD Soundsystem, and itâs clear he knows it just as well as everyone else.
Itâs hard to keep that nagging sensation separate from the listening process when it so obviously affected the recording. It is easy, however, to say that any and all effects are positive. Murphyâs strength, since the opening volleys of âLosing My Edge,â has been his honesty â about music, himself and everyone else. And through pulsing rhythms, â70s-style guitar and incredibly adept vocals, sincerity shines through on all tracks. This isnât just a goodbye letter; itâs a âDear John.â Murphy is saying everything heâs ever wanted to say and it is absolutely liberating to hear it.
If this is indeed the end, and if the love he takes is equal to the love he makes, this album alone earns him a lifetime supply. It is an astonishing, danceable and heartfelt finale to a short but infinitely impressive catalogue of a band that nobody saw coming, and it is an absolute blast to listen to anywhere, anytime.
Considering the consistently supreme quality of his work, this wonât be the last to be heard from James Murphy â itâs just the best so far.