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)

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