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LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

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Artist: LCD Soundsystem

Album: Sound of Silver

Label: Capitol

Review date: Mar. 19, 2007

At this point, James Murphy is a man who needs little, if any, introduction. Having staked his reputation as one-half of the esteemed DFA production team, Murphy sealed his place in the then-nascent dance/post-punk revival of the early aughts either behind the consoles of some of the movement’s best tracks or as the creative polymath at the head of them. To be sure, when the morass of millennial disco gets dusted off again in a couple of decades, his song “Losing My Edge” will stand as one of the rightful high water marks of all that was said and done in that field.

Though the series of LCD Soundsystem singles that led up to his 2005 full-length debut were models of genre-checking efficiency and self-effacing humor, something failed to translate in the long-playing format. Though LCD Soundsystem bumped quite ferociously at times, as a whole it never hung together, presenting a ragtag patchwork of name-check nods and fluent beats instead of a solid end-to-end album.

Sound of Silver, Murphy’s follow-up effort (not counting the Nike-commissioned track 45:33 that dropped last year in a bizarre fit of corporate cross-promotional bravado), revels in the same extended beat-scapes and sly genre-nods that have thus far permeated the whole of the man’s career. And yet the album addresses each and every shortcoming that made Murphy’s debut less than the epoch-defining event it should have been. Make no mistake – the beats are still rigid, dabbling in taut funk and squelching electro as much as snotty punk moves and glorious polyrhtyhms. These nine songs, however, ring with a clarity of purpose and a true intent that was previously altogether lacking, presenting a far more cohesive image of Murphy and his many strengths. More than anything else, for the first time it becomes obvious that there’s a real human heart that beats somewhere beneath Murphy’s keyboards and drum machines.

LCD Soundsystem tracks have always examined the changing landscape of pop music, filtering whole eras worth of sounds and styles onto distinctly modern platters. Rather than present these reflections again as a calculated style, though, Murphy’s lyrical concerns begin to reflect more deeply thought and felt sensations. In many ways these tracks strike as an obvious reaction against the media-crush that surrounded all-things DFA for a few brief moments during the crew’s inception phase, as songs like “Get Innocuous!” and “Us V Them” speak of overpopulated nightlife scenes and the push-and-pull exerted by unsought fame, balancing buoyant rhythmic pulses from rock and electronic angles against slightly bitter vocals.

And sure, there’s still a dose or two of well-placed humor, like the back-handed defense of all those considered “North American Scum,” amidst a well-played track of serpentine bass and driving drums. But it’s songs like “All My Friends” that cut the hardest here, hitting more openly raw nerves while channeling Neu’s Teutonic pulse and Faust’s off-kilter melodicism into a tune that wistfully celebrates the late-night parties and social scenes that seemed to have slipped from Murphy’s grasp. Likewise “Someone Great” and its glockenspiel-addled clicking percussion and synth swells render relationship dissolution with a rarely seen forthrightness.

But what exactly is the “Sound of Silver,” then? Based on the title track’s insistent robotic vocals and steady stabs of minimal house and pulsing percussion, it’s what “makes you want to feel like a teenager, until you remember the feelings of a real live emotional teenager. Then you think again.” And so it goes with both that sentiment and the closing thoughts of “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” that James Murphy’s true feelings on the art of the reminisce come to the fore – a true conflict between heady youthful idealism and fondness for things past jostling with the awkwardness of those same formative years.

It’s no surprise that the newest LCD Soundsystem album is populated with beats that jerk and jump as well as anything Murphy has previously crafted – at this point we rightfully expect at least that much from the man. However, Sound of Silver earns its marks for catching a creative force with his guard down for a moment or two, birthing songs that imbue his never-fail instrumental and production prowess with a newfound sense of humanity, making all the difference this time out. Though even a lesser album could sound stunning in a field now bereft of those mingling rock and dance moves, James Murphy has still created a compelling album that will define whatever legacy he may have as much as those essential early singles.

By Michael Crumsho

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