James Murphy made no bones about the hipster cred accorded Can on “I’m Losing My Edge,” LCD Soundsystem’s 2002 dancefloor-meets-Weird Al hit. “I was there, I was there in 1968, I was there at the first Can show in Cologne,” he sing-speaks ala King Missile, going on to target Suicide and others in the pantheon of removed, white boy cool. It’s idolatry and idol-destroying at once, and it’s a lot of fun to listen to. Murphy never shies from the obvious or expected, scratching musical itches and quoting hosts of precedents within his long-ish form constructions. He makes big beats, giant basslines, and his meta smarts about the music he creates enlivens his work rather than reducing it to a nostalgia trip. Precocious, yeah, precious, no.
Murphy wrapped up his LCD Soundsystem project in 2011, but revived it last year with some shows and this year (this month in fact) with American Dream, a double LP epic that continues an obsession with Adrian Belew-era Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, New Order, Depeche Mode, Modern English, Kraftwerk, and on and on and on…. Songs as dessert, and dessert with every meal. And yet the lyrical content carries some heft, and whether or not you think Murphy is saying anything new or real or whatever, you can take his songs in a lot of different ways, luxuriating in all the analog richness and the cracking drums, or thinking, as I do when listening to the lyrics of “How Do You Sleep?”, of something that relates on a personal level (in this case, there’s a Stevie Smith “Not Waving But Drowning” vibe going on). These aren’t simply tossed off words so people who aren’t comfortable with instrumentals have something to chant, or words made to fit or counterpoint melody, which was Can’s m.o. The lyrics crystallize, emotionalizing the epic weight of the central, insistent riff and Murphy’s all-in vocal.
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