Album Review: LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
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It's safe to say that LCD Soundsystem are one of the most important bands we've seen in the last decade. So when the dance-punk outfit announced their split in 2011 - culminating in a show-stopping goodbye at Madison Square Garden - the music world mourned a serious loss.
Then something happened in 2015. Rumours started to circulate that the group would be headlining several "high-profile festivals". In December they released their first single in four years. Finally by January, the cat was out of the bag: they were headlining Coachella, and a new studio album was on the way.
While most were celebratory, many fans voiced concern at the risks a reunion posed: why so soon? Was it a soulless cash grab? Would the new material even be any good? Would it be worth the risk tainting such a flawless discography and the memories that came with it?
James Murphy himself acknowledged this unease: “I knew we were going to have to be significantly better than we ever were, for anyone to say we were even half as good as we used to be." His doubt went so far that he sought counsel from none other than David Bowie, who simply told him: "Good. You should be uncomfortable." That was that.
It's fitting, then, that American Dream is so marked with references to the late icon.
'I Used To' underscores Murphy's reflection on the impact of his childhood musical hero with a spacey, chugging synth rock beat. 'Change Yr Mind' is the band's take on the funky riffs of 70s glam rock, while closing track 'Black Screen' is a sprawling and emotional 12-minute tribute to the man without who this record may not have happened.
Comfortingly, the core of what made LCD Soundsystem so appealing in the first place still remains.
The single 'Tonite' harks back to their classic dancefloor vulnerability, musing on mortality, the passing of time and what's been done to the music industry. Murphy is always at his best and most beautiful when dealing with the anxiety of ageing, and here that theme is explored to devastatingly dazzling effect. The swirling melancholic waltz of the titular track is another such standout moment.
Yet there's an unmistakable rage that can't be ignored. The band is so rooted in their beloved New York scene that of course they're going to comment on the current political turmoil.
Murphy doesn't kid himself, though; he's not the leader of the next revolution. The album instead does what they do best: it encapsulates the mood of the moment through bittersweet words and resounding sounds without being too overt.
Comeback single 'Call the Police' does it best. It's a brooding electronic rock anthem with a simple yet hair-raising guitar riff and equally powerful lyrics: "The old guys are frightened and frightening to behold/The kids come out fighting and still doing what they're told."
The world may have changed since we last saw them, but the heart and soul of LCD Soundsystem thankfully hasn't.