By BEN WEINSTEIN
We were there; we were there as LCD Soundsystem released three of the best albums of our generation, we were there as they skyrocketed to a festival-headliner level of fame, and we were there when they decided to never make music again. Why were we there? Because being an LCD Soundsystem fan means far more than casually enjoying their music. It means letting this band into your life, and, at times, define your life. It means dancing and crying your way through their discography to get out weeks of emotional and physical stress. It means watching, teary-eyed, as the band launches into their career-ending rendition of “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” live in New York City. LCD Soundsystem might be done, but to many of us they will never die.
When James Murphy released LCD Soundsystem’s first single “Losing My Edge” in 2002, few would have guessed that his project would end up being one of the most important bands of our generation. The nearly eight-minute track was a slow burner carried by a pulsating synth, featuring Murphy sing-talking his way through among other things- a comprehensive list of the records he liked to DJ with. “I had everything before anyone,” he brags, debuting the tongue-in-cheek attitude that would be present on every nearly LCD release to come. However, beneath all his witty lyricism was a very sincere commentary on not only the New York City DJ scene, but how ephemeral “coolness” is, whatever that means. As their career progressed, the band’s infectious instrumentation would be what attracted most of their fans; Murphy’s hilarious yet emotional lyricism would be what made them fall in love.
Of course, much of LCD Soundsystem’s appeal did come from their hypnotizing and rhythmcentric blend of punk rock and dance music. Their 2005 eponymous debut ranged from electro-punk screamers (“Movement”) to nine-minute, groove-filled tracks with equal debt owed to both Talking Heads and Daft Punk (“Yeah”.) “LCD Soundsystem” was one of the most promising debut records of the decade, and two short years later they outdid themselves on the now-classic “Sound of Silver”.
The band’s sophomore LP found Murphy embracing his love of driving, repetitive songs; it was no surprise that Can, Faust, and Swans were among the bands referenced on “Losing My Edge”. However, LCD Soundsystem’s music managed to use the repetition that bands had experimented with in the past and make it sound human. Although its songs were rhythmically mechanical, “Sound of Silver” resonated emotionally with anyone who would let the album into their life. Touching upon everything from loss of loved ones (“Someone Great”) to the beautiful highs and regrettable lows of home (“New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”), the album is an unexpectedly emotional journey. “All My Friends”, the LP’s breathtaking centerpiece, is a piano-led commentary on aging and friendship that sits among the band’s best work. The songs are all capable of being tearjerkers, but if I may borrow the name of a 1984 hit single you’ll be dancing with tears in your eyes.
From the very first moments of the band’s third and final album, 2010’s “This Is Happening”, there was no doubt that Murphy and Co. had recaptured the magic of “Sound of Silver”. “Dance Yrself Clean,” the record’s first track, became an immediate favorite thanks to its mesmerizing percussion and nail-biting buildup. “This Is Happening” is filled with some of LCD Soundsystem’s most memorable recorded moments: the infectious guitar riff of “All I Want,” the space-like synth sound of “I Can Change,” Murphy’s laugh-out-loud lyricism on “Pow Pow.” “Home,” the album’s last song, feels like the perfect way to bookend LCD’s career; the career of a band that was home to many. Unfortunately, whatever our idea of “home” is rarely lasts forever.
LCD Soundsystem’s decision to break up in 2011 after a farewell show at Madison Square Garden was puzzling to many. They seemed to be only getting more successful, both critically and commercially, and “This Is Happening” was the band’s highest charting album by a good margin. There was no drama between band members, no problems with drug abuse, no fighting with their record label. Why, then, does a band like LCD Soundsystem call it quits at what seems like the peak of their career?
“I want to have kids and I want to have a life,” said Murphy. And just like that, the band ended as sincerely as it started, leaving a wake of three genious albums and a generation of changed listeners.