FOUR years after dissolving the project known as LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy is no doubt still getting tweets and emails begging him to resume activity. The project only released three albums during their relatively short tenure, starting with LCD Soundsystem, an album that spawned the track ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’, which was released in 2005. Then my personal favourite, Sound of Silver, released in 2007, generally regarded as one of the best albums of the Noughties.
Then we get to 2011, and This Is Happening: A cyber-techno-dance-punk experimentation of epic proportions. Where Sound of Silver focussed on developing rhythms and beats, with perhaps the exception of ‘New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’, This Is Happening focussed on turning said beats into epic sagas. Take opener ‘Dance Yrself Clean’; a nine minute long epic beginning with a humble percussion beat before launching (and I mean launching) into an electro-punk-beat-driven outfit of rave proportions. If Sound of Silver is Fear of Music, This Is Happening is Remain in Light.
Almost as sharp as the electronic stabs that cut through the drum machines and cow bells come James Murphy’s unique vocals. While his voice feels strained at times, it somehow compliments the music, his quips echoing through the sound. ‘Talking like a jerk except you are an actual jerk and living proof that sometimes friends are mean.’ ‘Just ‘cause I’m shallow doesn’t mean that I’m heartless.’ ‘I guess you’re used to liars saying what they want.’ Just three examples of Murphy’s unsympathetic, no holds barred attitude.
But Murphy has moments where he lets his guard down. The wonderful ‘I Can Change’ is perhaps as close to a heartfelt pop song as LCD Soundsystem have ever come. Murphy sounds genuine as he pours his emotions out over one of the lightest electronic rhythms on this album. Then there’s that vocal hook, oh, that vocal hook; it’s easily the band at their most recognisable. There’s a certain emotion to ‘Home’ as well; it’s not the roaring passion of ‘I Can Change’, but there’s something sentimental to it.
On the whole though, This Is Happening is an album that takes a sidewards glance at its target and makes a sarcastic comment. ‘You Wanted a Hit’ and ‘Pow Pow’ rips into the listeners while making them want to get on their feet and move. ‘Drunk Girls’, dubbed ‘dumb’ by Murphy, takes a satirical look at attendees of those drug infused house parties; it’s like an anti-pop song. But no matter what the tone of the album, there isn’t a song on this record that you can’t dance to. The heart of this record isn’t attitude or anger; it’s just a damn good groove.
It’s no surprise that when the mid-decade polls came in, This Is Happening frequented many a list. To call this LCD Soundsystem’s swan song doesn’t seem appropriate – it seems like more an angry sneer. The sheer power of this record was echoed in their final performance at Madison Square Garden, with the entire crowd going mad as ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ kicks in. It’s clear that This Is Happening has certainly got staying power, and will no doubt appear on many end of decade lists as one of the best electronic albums of the 2010s.
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