LCD Soundsystem – American Dream Review 

The New York based LCD Soundsystem exploded onto the scene in the mid-late 2000s with what was an otherwise near-perfect string of albums with their self-titled effort, Sound of Silver and This is Happening before disbanding after a sell-out show in Madison Square Garden in 2011. Personally, I’d largely missed the buzz around LCD Soundsystem when they were at their hype; being only ten years old when their debut album was released. However, the influence the band have made on broader music is unmistakeable. Lead singer James Murphy’s direct influence in producing Arcade Fire’s most commercially successful and widest known album, Reflektor as well as working with the Gorillaz on the insanely catchy DoYaThing and Pulp’s After You alone is impressive enough. The band’s insatiable energy, creative funk and technical prowess on tracks like Daft Punk is Playing at my House, Dance Yrself Clean and I Can Change cemented their place as indie giants; two Grammy nominated albums and a nominated single wasn’t too shabby either.

​Soundsystem’s recent reformation has been mired in controversy however, with critics accusing the band of reforming not because they had more to give artistically, but more to gain monetarily. On American Dream, the band come at the LP with self-consciously less to say, less energy and less enthusiasm than they had on their previous three albums; James Murphy’s highly energetic delivery barely makes an appearance in the ten tracks. On ‘change yr mind’, Murphy refers to this in almost meta fashion when he sings drearily “I’ve just got nothing left to say/ I’m in no place to get it right / And I’m not dangerous now / The way I used to be once / I’m just too old for it now / At least that seems to be true”. If the band are trying to address these criticisms head on, they could have done it better than with an ultimately forgettable track with random crashing guitars on top of generic drum beat found on any basic synthesiser. Even on the up-beat ‘tonite’ and ‘call the police’ Murphy’s voice sounds as if he’s missing some of the eccentricity and passion which made his voice so interesting previously.

With the exception of ‘tonite’, ‘other voices’ and ‘american dream’, the albums instrumentals generally feel like the first draft of a jamming session. Perhaps most obvious on ‘emotional haircut’ and painfully so on ‘black screen’ where the usual sampled drum beat is played underneath a wandering guitar solo which never really finds its way anywhere; as if in the studio they just said play the first thing which comes to mind. Yet, on ‘other voices’ the band scrape at the lively creativity that they achieved on their records in the 2000s with a spunky bassline and eccentric sampling which is only periodically weakened by Murphy’s groaning voice in the bridge.

Generally, American Dream soars highest on its ballads. The albums namesake, ‘american dream’ depicts a man waking up after a one-night stand only to ask himself if this is as good as the American dream gets. Whilst in no way a unique topic (for instance, Father John Misty’s Bored in the USA), Murphy’s wrapping of it in the search for true love and the melancholy of random hook-ups as well as his own ageing (an element repeated throughout the album) gives it a more niche point of view. Instrumentally, these sorrowful lyrics are well complimented by huge, booming, walk-down synthesiser beats. Similarly, the melancholic lyrics of ‘I used to’ where Murphy refers to himself as ‘still trying to wake up’ has some catchy refrains and a gratifyingly powerful guitar solo towards the end.

However, this type of progression during the track is generally absent throughout the LP where the initial beat is played over and over to the point of boredom without any change up. The album opener, ‘oh baby’ perhaps best illustrates the catchy beginning of many of the songs before it becomes stale with its lack of dynamism. If LCD Soundsystem were trying to persuade fans that they’re less than a decade break-up and reunion was for more than the money, they could have put more effort into the tracks on their latest album. The band never reach the creativity, energy or eccentricity which propelled them to fame in the 2000s and the more up-beat songs generally feel insincere, as though they have been thrown in so the album isn’t too much of a downer. They are some high-points too though, ‘american dream’ and ‘I used to’ being some of the few. Honestly, you’re better off spending your time listening once again to Dance Yrself Clean; it’s fucking incredible.

LCD Soundsystem – American Dream = 6.5/10 

Callum Christie 

You can see my best of 2017 playlist here –


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