22 January 2007
LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem (Rough Trade)
A confession: I like to write about albums that do not get major press. This is partly due to a slightly obscurist tendency to which I will gladly cop, but also because what I write is unaffected by what others have written before me. Therefore when writing on an album such as this, or Arular, I find my review is partly an expression of my opinion and partly a response to other, existing, opinion.
Such a situation is especially the case with the eponymous debut full length from James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem; because I could not like the album as much as (for example) The Wire does, it might seem like I have negative affect for either the album or the magazine, when neither is the case.
I will say that the album suffers from the omission of excellent 2002 single ‘Losing My Edge’, a song of such lyrical charm and dynamic structure that it is one of my very favourite of this admittedly inchoate decade. Nevertheless, it is an epic monologue about the ground being lost by the concept of ‘legitimacy’ in music, as ‘being there’ carries with it less weight at a time when Youtube and Soulseek enable everybody to ‘be there’ in essence. It’s that age old problem of being into something for ages that is now freely available that we have all encountered at various points, and to varying degrees. Anyway, it’s moot because it’s a separate single.
A single included on the album, however, is ‘Tribulations’ which, while slight in comparison to ‘Losing My Edge’, is a catchy pop sing with a cool beat and predictably clear, busy-but-uncluttered production. The pop hit of the album is the opening ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’ which is lesser still, and rather flat to kick off an album, but is certainly adequate.
Perhaps a more fitting start to the album would have been the short, snappy punk rock ‘Movement’. While many punk rock bands of the last decade have been described as having ‘snotty’ vocalists, LCD super-brain James Murphy actually does sound like his nose is blocked in the verse. That is only temporary, and the music explodes into action for the majority of the songs three minutes.
(I apologise for this current batch of reviews being little more than a track-by-track rundown, but that seems to be a coincidence based on the nature of these albums being slightly hard for me to get a more measured handle on than I would like. Actually organising these lists is far simpler than justifying them, because the former allows the writer to rationalise a decision as ‘well, I like this record more than that one’. Writing up the list requires a tad more thought. If I was better at psychology I would make some reference to the difference between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.)
‘Never as Tired as When I'm Waking Up’ is interesting, in that it represents a strange breed of song or, more pertinently, my strange method of appreciation. I do not like the Beatles. This statement does not come from the aforementioned obscurism, but rather the fact I just don’t like their songs that much. What I do like a lot of, weirdly, is music said to be Beatles-influenced, or ‘Beatlesy’. I like power pop groups, The Apples in Stereo, Beulah et al. I even like when non-Beatles artists cover their songs (most exemplified by Al Green’s wonderful version of ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’). Anyway, this is a song I would describe as ‘Beatlesy’ and like the similar ‘I’m so Tired’ by Fugazi and Soundgarden's 'Blow Up the Outside World' I dig it greatly.
The song itself is aptly slow and lazy, slightly dreamy in performance, and is a delightful ditty that bridges between the more active ‘Movement’ and ‘On Repeat’ very effectively. Perhaps too effectively, as I find the latter overlong and under-involving. Then again, I feel I am cheating slightly in rating such a song because it sounds made for the club context and as a result listening to it on headphones at home seems not to be optimum. Then again, this isn’t a white label 12”; the song is on an album designed for home consumption, so maybe I am right after all. ‘Thrills’ is more of the same, but thankfully half the length and better for it.
Last song ‘Great Release’ is excellent stuff. In fact, what with this and ‘Never as Tired…’ being the biggest artistic successes in terms of listening to LCD in the home, perhaps Murphy and Goldsworthy would do well to pursue the more gentle, emotional side of their music, rather than the overwhelmingly beat-driven. The slow pace of the vocal and epic stature of the songs structure remind me of Underworld, albeit modernised and dropping the straight house beat. The build is gradual (I didn’t notice it pricking up my ears until about halfway through the six minutes), and the climax is a gathering of sound that gains almost ominously in momentum, but stops before there might be any listener discomfort – this is no 1999 Mogwai. Oddly, both these songs end when the song just dies away and sounds are heard of walking off or turning things off. Maybe it’s just coincidence.
While I may seem harsh on the album, that’s likely a symptom of my decision to analyse in (something resembling) detail; it is consistently very good, and never really feels like it is dragging. I see where publications are coming from in rating it almost uniformly top 10, but I think 2005 was too competitive for that to ring true with me. It is worth mentioning that CD copies of the album still come bundled with a ‘bonus’ disc of LCD singles, including the mighty ‘Losing My Edge’ (another example of the diminution of ‘being there back in the day’). If you want to consider that a part of the album, then subtract about four from the current position.