The return of LCD Soundsystem
I remember being at a friend’s birthday party in Dublin the night LCD Soundsystem was set to play their “final” gig at Madison Square Garden. April 2nd, 2011. A bunch of pals had gone over for the gig and myself and my Dublin-imprisoned friends were talking about the band. LCD was both a product and leader of a generation. Murphy encapsulated the hipster ennui of 20 and 30-somethings with a combination of sophistication and just enough jaded aloofness for hundreds and thousands of people – millions probably – to think “it’s like he’s inside my head.” The oughts were weird, like an intermission. And Murphy got that. For people who snagged the tail end of Nirvana as children, dug The Strokes, but were happiest in a club, James Murphy and co were there. This band was pure quality, real class, the perfect mix of high and low art, Murphy peeling back the griminess of the day to day slog and sprinkling it with knowing riffs and articulate couplets. He gave interviews like this. They jammed with disco and combined electro cacophonies with punk crashes. They were a product of their and our record collections, where The Velvet Underground was stacked next to David Holmes, Underworld next to Sonic Youth, Daft Punk next to Beastie Boys, Talking Heads next to Diana Ross, Suicide next to New Order.
That night, at Mother, myself and a friend absconded in the small hours of the morning to a large room somewhere in the north inner city where there was a HD digital projector. We watched the last gig live. And danced. It was magic. It was over. Someone great was gone. Where were your friends that night? But the goodbye turned out to be a long one, protracted even. On September 4th, 2012, a bunch of Electric Picnic casualties piled into the Light House Cinema in Smithfield to watch Shut Up And Play The Hits, a documentary by Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace on the last days of the band and that magical gig. It was a Tuesday and most people were suffering from festival flu. At the Picnic the previous weekend, could you possibly count the amount of people who reminisced about their 2005 gig in Stradbally, or ’07, or 2010? When was it again?
I didn’t really dig the film. It felt very Murphy-centric, which is kind of an obvious thing to say. And of course everything was ending but the whole thing felt overly downbeat. The urges to reference Stop Making Sense and The Last Waltz felt a little redundant when LCD were clearly their own people, with their own vibe.
Ireland loves LCD. The band was booked to play Tripod in April 2010, but the Icelandic volcano put the skids on it. They went back to Stradbally to play in the Electric Arena. I had seen them at Glastonbury that summer, Murphy was resplendent in white. They played the Other Stage. It was hot. Then, in November, the Tripod gigs happened.
In ’05, the band only had their debut record to their name, with the now almost rudimentary sounding ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’ becoming more of a meme than a hit. But it was ‘Losing My Edge’ that had the indie kids standing to attention like meerkats. Then in ’07, Sound Of Silver came along. The title track swirled like a mantra:
“Sound of silver talk to me
Makes you want to feel like a teenager
Until you remember the feelings of
A real life emotional teenager
Then you think again”
Nostalgia wrapped in ennui. Energy shrouded in slackerism. That was LCD’s buzz. Aeropresses and ecstasy. €100 trainers and €2 cans.
The four real hitters on that record though were ‘Someone Great’, an absolute heartbreaker of a tune, ‘Us V Them’ with its hands to the sky “Cloud, block out the sun
Over me, over me” refrain, and the triumphant duo of ‘All My Friends’, still the default club and house party ender everywhere, and ‘New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’, a modern day love letter to a city everyone wants to be in. The song Lou Reed never wrote. They were on the lineup for the Picnic that Autumn – an insane lineup with Beastie Boys, Bjork, Chemical Brothers and Sonic Youth. I missed Bjork because of traffic, but stood at the side of the stage for the Beastie Boys gig and handed Adam Yauch his towel. Yes. By the time ’10 came around, everyone was playing ‘Dance Yrself Clean’, initially straining their ears to the club’s speakers wondering if the DJ had screwed something up, then “DUH NUH NUH NUH DUH DUH DUH NUH NUH NUH…” and we’re off. “Ahhh ahhhhhh, ahhh ahhh.”
Back to the end, and the end kept coming. Murphy did production work on Reflektor, invented Despacio, opened a wine bar, worked on his own coffee brand. His ageing coolness meshed with Noah Baumbach for scores to Greenberg and While We’re Young – the latter a film that felt entirely inspired by Murphy’s outlook on losing his edge. At 45-years-old he’s part of a generation that prolongs its young adulthood. And why not? Everyone is more connected to pop culture than ever. People are living longer. Generation gaps are made up of new things, and music isn’t one of them.
Murphy was never really gone. You could spy him in the corners of Despacio at Glastonbury or Sonar or Electric Picnic, or see the disco ball catch the flecks of grey and sweat in his beard at some DJ set. But for all the idolising of Murphy, it’s not just him that’s missed, it’s the band, man.
And now, they’re back. Do you feel cheated? LCD fans pinned a lot of emotions on their end and now it’s rebooting. Turned off an on again. We packed up our memories like Andy did his toys in Toy Story 3, but weren’t ready to consign them to the attic yet. One more tune. LCD are back for Coachella, a festival that I don’t see any point in going to unless you’re totally hooked up. Too hot. Too expensive. Too full of EDM bros and flower-crown Snapchatters. Too many VIP this and VIP that sections. Basic. But where else will LCD hit up on their compressed nostalgia tour, if you can be nostalgic for a band just four years off the stage?
The kids are coming up from behind. But we want something that was already over. One more tune. That’s how it starts. Again.
Meanwhile, James Murphy is writing over here about getting the band back together, making a new LCD record, and how they’re not just going to be playing Coachella, but “playing all over.”