This is Happening
[DFA / Virgin; 2010]
Halfway through This is Happening, James Murphy sings: “You wanted a hit? But that’s not what we do!” Without having to think very long, I can name a few, though. But that’s the way of the cynical frontman. Ever since their 2002 single “Losing My Edge”, LCD Soundsystem has presented their audience with the perfect blend of danceable electronica, disco, indie rock lyrics, and Brooklyn-cool. But now it’s apparently all over.
This is Happening is rumoured to be LCD Soundsystem’s last record, as James Murphy never intended to be a 40-year-old rock star. And it’s been an impressive tour de force. Ever since the first single ‘Losing My Edge’, where Murphy tries to assert himself in the indie culture, and at the same time ridicules the urge of the hipsters to constantly name drop, LCD Soundsystem has moved persistently forward while looking further backwards.
On This is Happening, Murphy and the band echoes their own previous work; the single ‘Drunk Girls’, with its hectic and chaotic, yet strangely simple beat and synth melody, is strongly reminiscent of their 2005 hit ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’. The limited release first single ‘Pow Pow’, however, is wildly inspired by Talking Heads’ legendary live album Stop Making Sense – especially the 808 drum track on ‘Psycho Killer’. And James Murphy’s voice and delivery has always evoked David Byrne’s feverishly urgent vocals. The album is packed with more or less overt musical references – especially to seventies and eighties disco, new wave and kraut rock; this has, after all, always been LCD Soundsystem’s and, especially, James Murphy’s moniker. This is Happening is not all art rock tribute and echoing of LCD Soundsystem’s own discography, though. By choosing to record the album at the famous Los Angeles Mansion owned by Rick Rubin, where Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Murphy changes the scope of LCD’s music and lyrics to not only NYC, but to all of the music industry. ‘Cool’ is no longer reserved for Brooklyn but has infiltrated all of entertainment.
On the final half of This is Happening, the track ‘Somebody’s Calling Me’ sounds like a rearrangement of Iggy Pop’s ‘Nightclubbing’, while Murphy’s vocals mostly resembles Matt Johnson on The The’s 1993 album Dusk. The track is the beginning of a four cut sequence climaxing with the ten minutes long ‘Throw’ which calls on the ecstasy fuelled Madchester sound of the Factory Records era with Happy Mondays and Primal Scream as the prime inspiration.
Murphy started his career in a few rather unsuccessful bands up through the eighties and nineties, and simultaneously as a sound engineer and DJ under the name Death From Above. Starting with the new millennium, Death From Above was established as the record label DFA Records. One of the first singles put out by the new label was ‘Losing My Edge’, in which Murphy mocks the ever changing trends in music, based on his experiences as a DJ playing disco and German new wave in a time when the kids wanted Daft Punk. Bearing all this in mind, a very obvious narrative forms in LCD Soundsystem’s discography.
Regrettably, This is Happening seems to mark the end for LCD Soundsystem, and thereby maybe an era in indie music. Whatever is in the cards for LCD Soundsystem, arguably they have always concerned themselves with the concept of hype through their lyrics, and the band has always been surrounded by much hype. Regarding This is Happening, the hype is worth following.