In a 2011 interview with James Murphy, the founder, frontman and face of the band LCD Soundsystem, Stephen Colbert said, “I didn’t think rockers just got to walk away like that.” Murphy, however, thought otherwise, and that year – after nearly a decade together – LCD Soundsystem officially disbanded with a dramatic final show at Madison Square Garden. Nevertheless, with David Bowie’s encouragement, Murphy, drummer Pat Mahoney and keyboardist Nancy Whang reunited LCD Soundsystem in 2015, reviving the unique electric sound that had garnered a cult following in the post-punk scene.
The renaissance of LCD Soundsystem will not disappoint any of the band’s loyal followers. The refreshingly self-aware lyrics and disco-punk beats that led to the band’s fame are still prominent on its fourth album, american dream. Just like LCD Soundsystem’s first hit, “losing my edge,” written by an already greying 30-year-old Murphy in 2002, american dream is honest and fearless in its lyrics and sound.
Murphy addresses the elephant in the room head first in the song, “change yr mind,” and repudiates all the fans that felt duped by the band’s revival. The song’s title seemingly refers to Murphy’s change of mind in ending the band, and he sings to the fans that accused him of deception, “I have a penny for your thoughts / If you could keep them to yourself.” Murphy, in a bold self-analysis, additionally attempts to provide a justification for the band’s faux death. “I can’t make you a promise/ We’re not professionals,” he sings.
Indeed, Murphy takes pride in his non-professionalism, or rather his nontraditional sound relative to other professional artists. In a 2011 interview with Chuck Klosterman featured on the band’s documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits, the singer criticized the apprehension of today’s popular artists. “All these other DJs are just playing this boring shit, they’re terrified to mess up,” he said. Rather, LCD Soundsystem is decidedly nontraditional in its sound. The album’s first track, “oh baby,” begins as a modernist, headache-producing mess. However, as the tinny beat cools down and Murphy’s voice comes on, the song develops into a psychedelic and catchy punk lullaby.
The album’s title track song, “american dream,” begins with an epic downward electric and twinkling spiral that sounds like an extended version of the Twin Peaks theme song. As its name might suggest, “american dream” conjures up a sentiment of Americana about which Murphy regretfully reminisces. The Princeton Junction, N.J., native sings, “Find the place where you can be boring/Where you won’t need to explain/That you’re sick in the head and you wish you were dead.” Murphy’s hit expresses the same sentiments cinema hits such as “Stand by Me” or “American Beauty” evoke: exposure of the dark underside of saccharine suburbia.
Another notable track is “call the police,” which, along with “american dream,” was released as a single before the album. Unlike “american dream,” “call the police” is a more topical ode to today’s disquieted youth. Above the song’s upbeat percussion and chords, Murphy sings of the police brutality and political turmoil that today’s revolutionaries protest. “Your head is on fire, your hands are getting weak / We all, we all get stupid in the heat / You’ve basted your brains with the shatter and defeat up on the street / And this is nowhere,” Murphy concludes in his pessimistic punk twist on The Beatles’ “Revolution.” The song, still maintaining the treasured sound of early 2000s LCD Soundsystem, encompasses the defeated mentality of today’s youth through Murphy’s lyrics.
Addressing the concerns of the next generation and touching upon Murphy’s own fears and insecurities about being a mature rocker, american dream speaks to both young and old audiences. With its return album, LCD Soundsystem delivers its beloved punk sound and pairs it with poignant and relevant lyrics, disproving Murphy’s fears and establishing that LCD Soundsystem has not lost its edge.
LCD Soundsystem earns ‘First No. 1 Album’ on the Billboard 200 chart with ‘american dream.’ Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Times.