American Dream (Sony)
The American dream? Yeah, how’s that working out for you America?
There definitely are times, indeed many times, here where you imagine James Murphy waking from – or is it waking to? - that dream and asking “how did I get here?” Maybe even taking a look around a bit more and, speaking for many of his countrymen and women, “my god, what have I done?”
It will not come as a shock to anyone who has been in LCD Soundsystem company in the past 15 or so years that this album is not short of a kind of low-burbling paranoia, high-burning insecurity and constant, generally critical, self-evaluation.
We’re talking about a man in Murphy who began his career already contemplating obsolescence with Losing My Edge and who broke up the band six years ago because he was sure that that lost edge was probably but one song away.
Of course he has returned chewing on the thought that “I’m not dangerous now, the way I used to be once” as he says/sings in Change Yr Mind. But then just as expected he has also returned well aware of both his proclivities and anything-but-insecure position in the world (the word bourgeoisie turns up on the record as a kind of reflex term of abuse; he pokes hard at himself all through Tonite) and the fact that he was due some barbs for having declared the band over, only to reform.
Change Yr Mind is a double-edged sword of a song after all and the Emotional Haircut here (a rolling pounder of a guitar-driven, chanted backroom choir, Anxieties R Us five minutes that is equal parts TV On The Radio and Nina Hagen) is self-applied.
Should Murphy be concerned? Is the returned LCD – once again Murphy with Nancy Whang on keys, drummer Pat Mahoney and Al Doyle still on loan from Hot Chip – edgeless and out of time?
Nope. Not even a little bit. American Dream is physical and cerebral in exactly the proportions we last saw in them, jittery in its dance and exposed in its emotions. Or at least as exposed as Murphy wants to be with his lyrics carefully struck to reveal many an anxiety without necessarily spilling the truth of the depths of that feeling.
Something like David Bowie you might say, a man who may well be the subject of the album’s darkly decorative closing song, Black Screen, which seems to be about a kind of immortality in art as well as the temporal mark left on others by that art.
If Bowie is here as always – it’s worth remembering that like fellow New Yorkers, TV On The Radio, LCD were not just given the Bowie imprimatur but were asked to collaborate because he saw something in their spirit – it is another New York standard bearer and LCD favourite which dominates here, Talking Heads.
More than anything in the first incarnation of LCD Soundsystem - which was already heavily indebted to them as much as the darker corners of 1980s disco - American Dream is the perfect album to follow the Heads’ Remain In Light and the David Byrne/Brian Eno project My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.
There is the alienation borne of a failed attempt to connect or reconnect (the lost friendship and undertone of disturbance of How Do You Sleep?), the uneasy but insistent urge to dance (the feral abacus cutting shapes in Other Voices), the Afro-centred rhythms hitting an ultra-urban dancefloor in dangerous company (Change Yr Mind), and the halfway house between church and crackhouse (the looming I Used To) for a good spread of Byrne/Eno/Weymouth/Franz/Harrison-ness.
Add to that the swarming rock disco of early mid ‘90s Bowie in Call The Police and its electro black arts cousin Emotional Haircut, plus the lost in the moment euphoric dance of Tonite and you’ve got a full suite of pre-9/11 New York viewed through the eyes of a post-9/11 world.
The quality on American Dream is genuinely same as it ever was so maybe James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem are proof that you can go into the blue again, after the money’s gone, more than just once in a lifetime.