29 September 2017

LCD Soundsystem - American Dream

I never thought that I would ever be able to hear a new LCD album, but thank fuck James Murphy changed his mind.  LCD Soundsystem are a polarising band in my experience, one which never fill the middle ground in anyone’s mind.  Either people are fanatical about them, or they have an equally passionate hatred about them as well.  When LCD Soundsystem original split up after the release of This Is Happening, James Murphy went into production, with his biggest contribution being his work on Blackstar by David Bowie.  But there was always rumours, always whispers that one day we would hear new music by LCD Soundsystem.  And now it is here and I am not sure how to approach it.  Sometimes when a band comes back, it is not with that original passion that made them so good in the first place.  Sometimes, (for want of a better phrase) it turns out to be an exercise in turd polishing that pleases nobody.  I am truly hoping that this is not the case, but I approach this album with a certain degree of fear…...

01 – Oh Baby

The opening track of American Dream is the slow “Oh Baby”, a song that is a tribute to another song, “Dream Baby Dream” by Suicide.  When I say it is slow, it is as patient as glacier in terms of pace and it is incredibly minimal.  It also reminds me of Soft Cell in places, but with very little drama and a little too long to make its point.  But when it gets towards the end of the song, it starts to shine like a diamond in the sky.  The gentle nature of the song, the beautiful music wins you over, but it takes far too long for LCD Soundsystem to make its point on this one.

02 – Other Voices

A song with two themes, “Other Voices” is about anxiety attacks that people can suffer and about the 2016 USA Presidential election, both of which combine in this Talking Heads-esque song that is in no hurry to open up to you.  The more I listen to it, the greater the Post-Rock influence of this song hits you and wraps you into a tight ball, before it chews you up and spits you back out again.  There is no warmth on this one, it is a harsh number that is without filters to help deal with other human beings.  It is a great number, but it is not one that makes it easy for you.

03 – I Used To

This song really does hit you with a wave of remorse and regret, one that is so huge that it will smash you into pieces with its relentless nature.  It is more Post-Rock (surely, I should be stating that it is Post-Electronica) that does not give up one inch, does not relax for one iota and it just makes the walls collapse within your personal little world.  It is a dark number, it never deviates from its course and it hits home every time.  Once again, it is a hard one to understand in places and it takes time, but it is truly worth it.

04 – Change Yr Mind

Another depression in waiting, “Change Yr Mind” feels like it is being sung by a man who has given up, as if the end has already happened and the bottom of the bottle is now where they dwell.  It has that same relentless nature that is played out on the first few songs of this album, with that amount of warmth as well.  But there is still something hypnotic about this song, a tune that does not make anything too easy, it makes the listener concentrated and then does not give a damn if you like it or not. 

05 – How Do You Sleep?

A song about the deterioration of Mr Murphy’s friendship and business relationship with Tim Goldsworthy, a friendship which has become untenable for all involved.  It is a long song, over nine minutes in length and it is (as you would expect) a harsh critic of their union.  It is not something that you can easily digest and it takes a while to get over that initial brutal shock, that feeling of betrayal that pours out of each note and beat of “How Do You Sleep?”.  You can hear every broken word being sung with passion and pain, it is a stunning number, but it is also one that is once more a hard one to love.

06 – Tonite

A song which goes back to an earlier sound for LCD Soundsystem, “Tonite” brings some energy to the album.  It is still filled with resentment to the aging process, but it is fighting/accepting it as there is a feeling that the night is young about it.  The music sounds hopefully, almost innocent to a certain degree.  But it a middle-age man who is looking around and seeing that he still has work to do, but he is not going to make it easy for anyone, including himself.  It is a good number, but it is also one that keeps up the hard to love feeling of the record.

07 – Call the Police

Call the Police” is a bass heavy number that feels like everything is drifting apart, as if everything is shifting without people being able to comprehend the advancement of age.  There is a progressive rock element to this song, one that makes it stand out from the record and gives it a different feeling.  But to be honest, it is still one that is not easy on the listener, but that has been the calling card of this album.

08 – American Dream

The title track of the album is so harsh, it is like a candy crush nightmare on acid, thrown on a waltzer and then allowed to slowly spin into the night. The slow and relentless Post-Electronica (yeah, that is what I am calling this) nature of the song is full and empty at the same time, but it is not without things to admire.  This music is fantastic, it is something that I adore and it makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. But I do not trust it, I do not love it as it is too relentless in a nature.

09 – Emotional Haircut

We have reached the penultimate song of the album, one that brings the Post-Rock edge back and it makes for an uncomfortable experience.  The aggression factor of this song is turned up full, the hostile feeling is mixed with paranoia and the feeling of being uncomfortable in your own skin.  It is a dark moment in 2017, one that haunts me at time.  It sounds great, I will never say it sounded awful, but I am not comfortable with this one.

10 – Black Screen

Now this is a harsh place to end the album, with Mr Murphy eulogising the late David Bowie, his friend and mentor.  It is heart-breaking on every level, there is pain engraved on this song and you are not prepared for that first experience when listening to it.  It ends the album on a sombre note, but a beautiful tribute to the last master of sound, a fitting place to end the album.

There is something brilliant and yet unlovable about this record, something which is akin to a force of resistance that is malleable to the listener, but it is not giving up its secrets easy.  But the fact it is an unforgiving album does not make it a poor record, to be honest it is a great record.  It is the biggest thing to happen to Post-Rock/Post-Electronica in an awfully long time, mainly because of its spikey and unwelcoming nature. On American Dream, LCD Soundsystem are not trying to sugar coat anything, they are trying to show you have fucked up the word actually is for them.  I think that age is also the second biggest theme of the album and the inability to accept that it is happening, there is a rage against it and a harsh lesson that they are being taught.  The quality of the performance is brilliant, but there is something holding me back from loving this record.  It is akin to the film Mother which is currently in the cinema, it is well-crafted, but you are not meant to like it.  My respect for it grows with each listen, but I still cannot love it, there is something too self-absorbed here that makes it a great record which is walling in its own self-pity a little too much. That is why I find American Dream an album that I admire, but one which I would not trust and have had to turn off when I was feeling delicate.

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time and money (but for this one, not my heart)

Top track – Black Screen

You can purchase American Dream on Amazon here.

You can visit the LCD Soundsystem website here.

You can follow the activities of LCD Soundsystem on Facebook here.

You can stream American Dream on Spotify here.

You can stream American Dream on Deezer here.

You can stream American Dream on Tidal here.

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