LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening

RIYL: Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music

James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem is the hipsterest band out there. And for that he gets a lot of backlash from hipster haters, myself included. But it’s not fair to mock an artist because his primary fan base is annoying as hell. If that was the case, I could never enjoy Nine Inch Nails. And besides, with all the v-neck shirts and ironic facial hair, it’s easy to forget that Murphy gave us one of the best albums of the decade with his group’s self-titled debut. And his debut single “Losing My Edge” remains the definitive critique of self-righteous musical-know-it-alls-by-way-of-Wikipedia (aka his biggest fans). He’s not a one-trick pony, either; 45:33 was an excellent piece of longform instrumental music, and Sound of Silver had more than its fair share of amazing tracks.

What makes Murphy’s music so enthralling isn’t the music itself, which is good in a “Hey, I really like krautrock and early New Order” kind of way; it’s the lyrics that grab you. Whether he’s attacking hipsters with “Losing My Edge” or commenting on the world view of Ugly Americans with “North American Scum,” the dude never seems to be at a loss of words and clever ways to comment on society. All while coating his clever and sometimes scathing messages with amazing retro-inspired dance beats.

That was, until This is Happening. That’s not a title, that’s a threat, forcing you to realize that this is a real record. You want to forget this record exists, but…THIS IS HAPPENING. You can’t avoid it.

First the highlights, there are three amazing tracks on This Is Happening. Thankfully they’re all in a row; “One Touch,” “All I Want” and “I Can Change” are all straight-up excellent examples of everything James Murphy does right. Witty lyrics, perfect beats and great synthesized beeps and blips. Download them now and never ever try to listen to anything else on this record. Just pretend it’s a three-track EP. Because if you don’t, then you might hear “Drunk Girls.”

Lyrically the song is pointless drivel, a haphazard rant about, well, look at the title. Musically it’s even worse, criminal even. Some have suggested that the song bares more than a passing resemblance to the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat.” Those people are being polite. “Drunk Girls” cribs so blatantly from that classic tune that it’s flat-out theft. “Drunk Girls” is “White Light/White Heat,” with new, shitty lyrics and a crap synth line. If Lou Reed isn’t getting paid every time some skinny PBR-drinking hipster with a horrible beard sends this video to his skinny-jeaned Facebook friends, then he needs a better lawyer. Or maybe not. Because even though “Drunk Girls” manages to shamelessly crib from one of the greatest songs of all time it also manages to suck all the quality out of it. It is the second worst thing that Murphy has ever released to the public.

That’s right; the second. Because the worst comes later with “Pow Pow,” a track so bad that I’m almost hopeful it’s a prank. Here Murphy’s sing/talk vocals, which are usually at least serviceable, are delivered in an unlistenable whiny tone that is the vocal equivalent of a screwdriver jamming itself through through your ear down to your intestines. And it’s eight and a half minutes long! It’s like an electronic version of “Freebird” for masochists.

Thankfully, the remaining tracks are just regular bad, and not additional contenders for the worst song ever recorded. “Somebody’s Calling Me” is droning drivel, and the closer “Home” is so forgettable that by the time it’s over you’ll have forgotten the beginning.

You know how when a celebrity you love does something horrible, and it permanently ruins your view of that person? Like, no matter how hard you try you can’t watch “Lethal Weapon” the same way again because all you see is drunken anti-Semite Mel Gibson calling a female cop Sugar Tits? Well, save for those three stand-out tracks, This is Happening is so damned bad that it may very well stop me from ever enjoying “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” ever again. Damn. (DFA 2010)

LCD Soundsystem MySpace Page


Seen Your Video: LCD Soundsystem, “Drunk Girls”

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I do not for one second understand the critical and music geek slurpfest that LCD Soundsystem has basked in since its inception. And the thing is, I should understand it. They like the same bands I like. They play the kind of music I like to listen to. But I do not like LCD Soundsystem. From where I’m standing, they are quite possibly the most overrated band alive today. Indeed, this is how I ended my review of their last album, Sound of Silver:

“The band never rises above their influences, and James Murphy can’t sing. In the end, though, none of that matters. All that matters is that LCD Soundsystem is cool, and if you like them, then you’re cool, too.”

So…are you cool?

Fortunately, I gave up on being cool a few years ago, and let me tell you, that was a wonderful thing. Trying to stay hip is hard – there is a very popular blogger whose name I could cite as an example of someone bending over backwards to maintain their hipster cred, but I won’t; she’ll find out the hard way soon enough – and here’s the thing that aging, former hipsters don’t tell you: you’d be amazed to discover how much better music sounds when you stop acting so pious and elitist about it. Does that mean I’ve lowered my standards? Not at all. It simply means that I couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of my musical tastes anymore. And that includes anyone tempted to use the comment section below to tell me how stupid I am, so don’t waste your time.

Now, back to LCD Soundsystem, the cool band of the moment. This is the second one-take video I’ve seen this week (Slow Club’s is the other), showing that the OK Go ripple effect is in full swing. The clip begins amusingly enough, with the aforementioned singer who can’t sing standing in front of a test pattern screen, trying to sing while guys in animal costumes (dogs? Panda bears?) pester Murphy, Al Doyle (at least I think it’s Doyle) and Nancy Whang as they try to sing along to the track. Pretty soon, the inappropriate touching gives way to truly obnoxious behavior. Nancy gets egged, but not before getting a bullhorn blasted in her ear. Doyle gets hit with fire extinguishers, stripped and has trash dumped on him. Murphy and Whang are duct taped together and written on with markers. The subtext is not hard to read: LCD Soundsystem are the drunk girls, and the guys in suits are frat boy douchebags. The video ends with everyone partying and completely defacing the set.

The clip will definitely get people talking, and while I get and appreciate the point it’s trying to make, it’s still pretty ugly. Besides, the video’s moral, as it were, will be lost on the majority of its audience anyway. Doyle is even seen drinking with the animals at the end, which sends all sorts of mixed messages. Do the drunk girls deserve what they get? Hmmmm.

Ah, but no one’s going to talk about the video’s message. All anyone cares about is that this band that is perceived as cool made a “controversial” video that got the blogosphere buzzing. Their fans will line up to tell them how wonderful they are, and the press will say that it’s the best record since their last record. And in the end, I’m aware that I’m contributing to this phenomenon, even though this piece is in dissent.

But for God’s sake, man, someone had to step up and say it – LCD Soundsystem are just not that good. They probably could be, if they tried a little harder. But this, this is just piss take music, all arch, pretend irony and posturing without an ounce of genuine emotion. If some band with a lower hipster rating released this song, everyone would say it was shit. And the song isn’t shit, per se, but it’s not awesome, or even good. It’s just music by a band lucky enough to be popular with the cool kids. Imagine how popular they’d be if they actually put some effort into it.


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