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 –

 
 

Single Review – LCD Soundsystem – Tonite

After their “break up” back in 2011 and seven years since their last album, LCD Soundsystem will release their fourth album The American Dream on September 1st. The James Murphy-led project have always produced strong bodies of work that are both catchy and thoughtful simultaneously and it would appear this effort is just as strong in that regard from the singles we’ve been given. Their latest ‘Tonite’ ticks both boxes. It hammers out a disco drum-machine beat and similarly aged pitch shifted backing vocal. This is set well as a background to Murphy’s clear cut vocal. Whilst the music progresses with ever jolting and squiriming beats and synth chords, the lyrics dig progressively deeper into the ideas of mortality and the regret that goes hand and hand with it. So it is typical of LCD Soundsytem that such lyrical matter is married to a disco sound. Their albums have always garnered attention and this one will be no different. 

Owen Riddle

Arcade Fire – Reflektor Review

After taking the world by storm in 2011 with their third album Suburbs; Arcade Fire are to return with their fourth: Reflektor. Without a doubt this is possibly the most pivotal moment yet for Arcade Fire as a band because of the high expectation from their third album which has made them big players now in terms of the world’s top groups. With that in mind the scrutiny will be on a whole new level for them. Getting James Murphy in as producer is a positive step simply because he’s a musician as well and is a pretty capable one at that. Besides that; you can always get in a guest artist to re-focus and perhaps enhance out-put and having the presence of David Bowie working on the album with you will probably do that. The sound they’ve created is perhaps their most experimental and intriguing but does it have the desired effect?

‘Reflektor’ is a song that has percussion and a rhythm riff that creates a solid hook and one that might get you dancing if you’re not careful. The vocals are spaced out well and sit perfectly above the instrumental hook with the switch to French on the bridge keeping you on your toes and adding to the variety. The burst of the horns too; gives the hook an extra kick as well. The song goes on to take up a highly atmospheric build up and instant fall as it realigns itself back to normal. Something which won’t fail you when done in such a way. The slight sound of Bowie will be make people even more excitable when you can clearly hear the great man himself towards the end of the song and it sounds like it could work well with him in other songs with his vocal against a wash of rhythm and melody. Despite being crammed full of different elements and three different vocals; nothing kills off anything else and they’ve utilised the plus seven minutes they had to good effect to really spread everything out and keep the atmospheric quality of it as well as retaining a lot of room for everything too. ‘Afterlife exudes rhythmic quality and finesse with the mix of conventional and Caribbean-like percussion and the short stabs at the synths have the same effect. The other elements are easily spread across the bass groove and rhythm with the more echoed and softer synth chords and the distorted riffs flowing across it all. This provides a stable foundation for the vocals to fall on to. The backing echoed backing vocals stretching and expanding Butler’s more immediate vocal out and into the faded synths while still sitting above the music to give the song the direction it needs. The song draws to a conclusion was a culmination of various tones and styles of synth which will usually have a more lasting effect than an abrupt or lazy ending.

‘Here Comes The Night Time’ starts more suddenly with a more staggered structure which the vocals base themselves around briefly until the shift in tone ushered in by the piano’s melody. The reverberating guitars and the repeating of the song title lyric builds up the sound for the third change of tone within the first minute. The song returns to its staggered and steady beat but this time is woven together by faded guitars and synths in the background. Though the song sounds tame at times, it really doesn’t lose focus and they certainly can’t be accused to that with the fourth change of tone which rapidly speeds up the songs layout of which I still haven’t decided if it works or not. Regardless of this they masterfully pull the song back into its primary rhythm and beat and their attempts can certainly be appreciated in how they maintained the songs flow despite the tone changes. ‘You Already Know’ is very catchy and full of harmony and pop melody but it is standard indie fodder in that sense, but still a song they worked well. ‘Awful Sound’ is characterized by the contrasting sounds of the steady bass line and the rapid and more intricate percussion which allows the guitar to layer itself on top. A standard feature but utilised in quite a different fashion of which they pretty much pulled off. All in all; I think that they’ve been treat a little too harshly by some critics who have failed to grasp what they’ve tried to do; particularly with the percussion. But having said that, this album is not their finest work but is evidence of how they can advance their work in the future.

Arcade Fire – Reflektor = 8/10

Images from www.stereogum.com / pitchfork.com 

 

Single Review – Arcade Fire – Reflektor

After taking the world by storm in a good way in 2010/2011 with their third album suburbs; Arcade Fire are to return with their fourth: Reflektor. The lead single is also the title track and without a doubt this is possibly the most pivotal moment yet for Arcade Fire as a band because of the high expectation from their third album which has made them big players now in terms of the world’s top bands. With that in mind the scrutiny will be on a whole new level for them. Getting James Murphy in as producer is a positive step simply because he’s a musician as well and is a pretty capable one at that. Besides that; you can always get in a guest artist to re-focus and perhaps enhance out-put and rumours that David Bowie is working on the album with them will probably do that! The song has percussion and rhythm riff that creates a solid hook and one that get you dancing if you’re not careful. The vocals are spaced out and sit perfectly above the instrumental hook with the switch to French on the bridge keeps you on your toes and adds to the variety. The burst of the horns too; give the hook an extra kick as well. The song goes on to take up a highly atmospheric build up and instant fall as it realigns itself back to normal. Something which won’t fail you when done in such a way. The rumours about Bowie will be even more excitable when you can clearly hear the great man himself towards the end of the song and it sounds like it could work well with him in other songs with his vocal against a wash of rhythm and melody. Despite being crammed full of different elements and three different vocals; nothing kills off anything else and they’ve utilised the plus seven minutes they had to good effect to really spread everything out and keep the atmospheric quality of it as well as retaining a lot of room for everything too. This song has set a marker for them to deliver with the album and with what they could have up their sleeve, then the album’s going to be very interesting.  

http://youtu.be/7E0fVfectDo

Image from www.spin.com