Tuesday, June 8, 2010

This Is Happening - LCD Soundsystem (SUMMER 2010)

This Is Happening

LCD Soundsystem
DFA Records.

SCQ Rating: 93%

Long before James Murphy’s third full-length under the LCD Soundsystem name had a title, tracklist or release date, people were already debating whether it could better everyone’s favourite crossover record of 2007, Sound Of Silver. Topic-thread trolls spouted their usual pessimism while Murphy countered with interviews that oozed either a feather-ruffled confidence or a chip-on-shoulder egotism. Unlike the anticipation for The National’s High Violet, which was embraced with universal assuredness a week prior, the hype surrounding This Is Happening seemed to leave a residue of desperation on press, fans, haters and Murphy himself. Whether this anxiety stemmed from dance-music’s fickle tastes (hey, remember Simian Mobile Disco...?) or rested too heavily on the project’s lone shoulders, This Is Happening had a seriously long shadow to get out from under.

Once ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ breaks out of mute introductions and into a nine-minute seesaw of wait-for-it stillness and beat-heavy catharsis, it’s clear that Murphy took notes from Sound Of Silver’s most celebrated couplet, ‘Someone Great’ and ‘All My Friends’. With the majority of tracks on This Is Happening clocking well over six-minutes each, the DFA co-founder has rolled the sleeves of his retro blazer up in an attempt to smear his heart all over these futuristic rock songs. And that’s what this is – rock. Ignore DFA’s primary niche and, for god’s sake, forget that disco ball on LCD’s debut; if Sound Of Silver offered unexpected refractions of vintage Bowie or David Byrne, This Is Happening vindicates Murphy’s songwriting voice as more than cheap homage or expert mimicry. You might still be able to hear Heroes-era Bowie in the surging riff-crescendo of ‘All I Want’ but this mini-epic is all Murphy’s, despite its beat being as complex as a new-wave drum-machine’s, regardless of how its dissonance nearly swallows his vocals whole. The too-cool hipster of yore has grown older and, now yearning for connections instead of compilations, Murphy saturates this material with rugged emotion.

Though he may believe in waking up together on ‘Drunk Girls’, that single’s otherwise superficial lyrics staunchly remind us of James Murphy’s role as an irony-seeking nonconformist. And while his spoken-word rants have rarely tickled this particular listener, ‘Pow Pow’ has an allure unlike any LCD song, one that distracts with aimless banter and a bizarre chorus-by-default of preset casios. Oh right, and Murphy repeating the word “pow”. What initially promises to be a grating, self-indulgent track nevertheless turns our expectations inside-out as a simple beat and flexing bass proceed to hypnotize us with additional layers of… effect-laden harps? It’s a mesmerizing eight-minutes, playing catch-up on all his post-disco tricks while somehow pushing his songwriting into an addictive but spacious no-man’s land.

Choosing between Sound Of Silver and This Is Happening is essentially leaving one good party for another. If you’re looking to cause some ruckus and act the fool, I recommend Sound Of Silver. If you’re looking to cause some ruckus and find a lover, This Is Happening can't possibly disappoint.

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