Even when we’re stuck in music’s current rut of nostalgia and retromania, LCD Soundsystem’s break-up and reunion is one of the most brazen yet.
The dust had barely settled on the band’s ‘farewell’ shows when bandleader James Murphy announced LCD’s return at the start of 2016 — five years after their last gigs in Madison Square Garden, and only four years since their swansong live movie Shut Up and Play the Hits.
Plenty of bands take four or five years between albums and tours without much of a ceremony. But Shut Up and Play the Hits was a widescreen ‘funeral’ with close-ups of fans sobbing, and interludes of a melancholy Murphy shuffling round New York coffee shops and pondering the legacy the band left. There was even a 5-LP box set of the last gig — you can pick it up on discogs for €350 (plus shipping).
LCD’s festival comeback last year and this current world tour may be worth a few tears to the MSG punters who now realise the shows weren’t that historic after all, no matter how many balloons fell from the rafters. But sneering aside, their three-night stand at Tripod in 2010 will go down as one of the defining events at the now-defunct Harcourt Street venue — and there’ll be plenty from those gigs going to their three-night run at the Olympia this week.
And when we’re bombarded with relentless comebacks no one wanted, the New York dance-punk hipster misfits just about get away with it. If PR companies can shamelessly fob off tours by the likes of Reef and Cast, and there’s a rumour that JLS might reunite, we can welcome LCD Soundsystem with arms wide open.
LCD Soundsystem were all about “borrowed nostalgia” anyway. Their breakout song Losing My Edge had Murphy’s character bemoaning the fact that he’d already lost it in 2002, namedropping scenes and bands that have passed him by, from Can to The Slits, PiL, Juan Atkins and Suicide – an ironic counterpoint to Daft Punk’s reverential track Teachers, that respectfully names a list of dance music legends.
LCD Soundsystem emerged during an NME-sponsored resurgence of indie-rock that nosedived into so-called landfill indie through the decade, and it was also the era of sniffy electroclash think pieces. Murphy’s crew had the critics on their side because of their impeccable reference points, wry commentary and underground mates. But it’s also because they simply rocked — nicking bits of The Fall, Bowie, ESG, Kraftwerk, Talking Heads and the rest, without turning to pastiche.
They nailed it live too, and their manic 3pm appearance at Electric Picnic in 2005 is one of my favourite afternoon festival memories, bizarrely followed by James Blunt, but that’s another story.
And even with Murphy’s aloof stance, they could also nail melancholy introspection (Someone Great, New York I Love You…) and they bottled sheer communal joy with that clumsy piano bashing on All My Friends, this generation’s I Am the Resurrection at the indie disco.
When Murphy announced last year that he and chief crew members Nancy Whang and Pat Mahoney were reuniting it was assumed by many to be a cash-grab, especially as the money trail led straight to the Coachella desert.
But after a tour of festivals last year, Murphy retreated with a promise of a new album, and delivered with American Dream earlier this month. It’s another collection of LCD’s best bits – propulsive analogue electro, scratchy funk, tightly wound post-punk and Murphy’s drawls, yelps and sly backhanders. Call the Police and Tonite already sound like live belters – hammered into shape, made for that LCD steam train locked-in groove.
LCD Soundsystem have never released a perfect album, with a few worn-out skip tracks like North American Scum, Drunk Girls and even Daft Punk Is Playing At My House. But with four or five killer tracks on each of their four records – even the new one – they’ll have a pretty perfect setlist.
And if you were moaning about the comeback a year ago, there’ll be plenty of moments to offset your inertia – maybe Murphy tangling himself up in wires, nearly swallowing the microphone, or some communal cowbell-battering session, or any time Nancy Whang roars into the mic.
Who knows where this reunion is heading, but Murphy may as well be doing this instead of running a wine bar and selling his own brand of coffee, just two of his interim jobs. Maybe he didn’t split with LCD Soundsystem after all – they were just on a break.
- In Irish Daily Star