LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening

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Posted September 13, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

lcdsoundsystem00Big eletro-powered disco and a hint of experimental punk rock highlights third entry for independent NYC band

Two albums well into their warcraft, LCD Soundsystem – led by frontman and DFA record label director James Murphy – has established their own unique blend of Electro-pop, Devo-esque experimental rock and strobe light disco; making them one of the hottest electronic/dance crossovers in sometime. The second release, Sound of Silver, earned the praises from the critics and gave them a bit of a burden in surpassing their success. On their third collection, This Is Happening (still rumored as the group’s last workout), they try their best to live up to critical expectations – sometimes opening up new dimensions of creative depth and growth but mostly remaining consistent with their punk dance formula.

Pinpointing the fun on the album isn’t a hard job at all. The opener, “Dance Yrself Clean,” seems like a dozy reflected by its lack of instrumentation on the lengthy opener, but there’s a Beatlesque melody that automatically draws and the lyrics are just as entertaining as it reveals how troubling and simple his dating life is. The cure to the misery develops three minutes in when a spunky, bass-booming groove takes over like Blondie’s “Rapture.” Another close-up on his disappointing love life can be traced on “I Can Change,” where he begs for redemption while purporting Atari synths into a catchy ‘80’s pop melody.

There’s a fun rock anthem in the track selection (“Drunk Girls”) along with a few slow numbers used for transitional props. Although the group expands on their rock turf, they continue to give ravers the pulsating, beat-inducing sweaty disco they expect on tracks like “Pow Pow” and the reggae-meets-disco gem “Home.” “You Wanted a Hit,” a disco ballad that begins with a quiet instrumental and later slides into an bumpy disco workout, uncovers just how brash James Murphy can be as an independent. He obviously sings, in open letter form, about the frustrations the big execs are putting on him to compromise his style for pop fare: “You wanted it tough/But is it ever tough enough?/Nothing’s ever tough enough/Until we hit the road.” For songs that walk beyond the four-minute threshold, Murphy and his posse’ know they aren’t going to be hits in the eyes of radio. But the grooves here and the independent freestyle, done with the spirit of a good experimental jazz record, are worthy of attention.

Where the album slopes downwardly, although momentarily, is on the closing minutes of “All I Want” with its eerie, drunk computer bleeps and on the melancholy-abused “Somebody’s Calling Me.” The latter does feel like a Sly Stone ballad, but the blatant, out-of-tune synths blocks any possible sonic arousals of the ear.

With the fears of LCD Soundsystem ceasing from recording as a group still looming in the air, LCD fans should belly up their frustrations in the age of Twitter to get their message across. Of course big labels are looking for hits and are always following the guidelines of the pop convention, but Murphy and Company are comfortable in their own skin. In the world of dance music, fans love a long mix, a “get-on-your-feet” non-stop beat and a little rebellion. For those that understand them on This Is Happening, they will demand for more. And they will get results.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 18 May 2010
  • Label: DFA
  • Producers: The DFA
  • Track Favs: I Can Change, Dance Yrself Clean, You Wanted a Hit, Drunk Girls

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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