Sunday 22 September 2019

LCD Soundsystem 'American Dream' first review: 'one of those comeback albums that succeed only when reminding you of old glories'

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem

Complicated feelings are inevitable when a beloved band returns from an extended hiatus with a new album.

Can the LP stand alongside previous accomplishments? If not, does it risk blotting a gilded legacy? Listening to such records is never straightforward as there is invariably a tension between your desire to like what your hear and the suspicion you’re in for the mother of all letdowns.

The picture is even more complicated with LCD Soundsystem. James Murphy called time on the punk-funk disconauts in 2011, declaring that, aged 41, he was too old to front a pop troupe. But after bidding adieu with a sell out concert at Madison Square Garden (and a memorable three-night Irish farewell at Tripod) 16 months ago he reversed course and reconvened the group. In a recent interview he went so far as to quip that the big break -up was a stunt to ensure a MSG sell out (he was probably joking).

All of which makes American Dream a fraught listen. Murphy started LCD Soundsystem after decades in go nowhere indie outfits – his logic being that, as with comedy, dance music either works or it doesn’t – there are no grey areas.

But the new record is as close as the band have yet come to a conventional, guitar oriented record; the skittering, jitter-infused Other Voices sounds like an outtake from Talking Heads’ Remain In Light with David Bowie guesting; Emotional Haircut confronts us with the disturbing vista of Murphy living out his Joy Division fantasies, his stoic croon paired with torrents of post-punk percussion and tripwire riffing.

The best stuff, meanwhile, is a retreat into the formula that brought the band success on Sound of Silver (2007) and This Is Happening (2010). A squelchy post-punk groove drives Tonite; Call the Police showcases Murphy’s unique ability to blend soppy emotions and ruthless beats.

At last year’s Electric Picnic, LCD Soundsystem confirmed that they remain a uniquely compelling live affair: an indie band that appeals to the head and the heart (and yes we’re all counting down to seeing them at the Olympia). However, American Dream is a slight return – one of those comeback albums that succeed only when reminding you of old glories.

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