LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver DFA/EMI

With Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem makes a slight but important transition. Between his clever piss-takes, complex rhythms and frenzied non-sequiturs, James Murphy has always betrayed a few shreds of emotion. Even first single "Losing My Edge," a sarcastic satire of music nerd one-upsmanship, carried a twinge of legitimate regret about surrendering cultural cred to "the kids." But you could easily ignore those undercurrents, choosing instead to chug a beer, shout out "Daft Punk is playing at my house!" and dance 'til you pass out. The songs on Sound of Silver are still quite suitable for dancing, drugs and snarky laughter, but presumably, some of them also work for a good cry. Murphy's sentimentality has never seeped to the fore like this before.

That could have been a bad thing. In the hands of a less talented craftsman, the romantic disenchantment of "Someone Great" and the spun-around sadness of "All My Friends" could have come off as trite. Same for "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" and its disillusioned longing for the Good Old Days™. Even in "North American Scum," in which Murphy bitchslaps Eurosnobs with a dose of their own nose-thumbing medicine, you can sense he's losing his cool.

Thankfully, the emotion is restrained and filtered through some of Murphy's most arresting music. From start to finish, Sound of Silver is packed with killer beats and simple, piercing melodies, some gussied up in layers of sound like so much New York traffic ("Us V. Them"), others laid bare ("Time To Get Away"). The nine songs are surprisingly cohesive considering how much ground he covers—the incessant chiming piano blaring over the exhilarating tale of regret "All My Friends"; the ultra-funky synth bass on "Watch the Tapes"; the classic LCD rhythm bomb "Get Innocuous." Only ending song "New York, I Love You" sticks out, but it's no sore thumb. Instead, it's an emotional cap on an emotional album, one that rounds out and colors in Murphy's public persona.

As usual, he nicks from his favorite records—Brian Eno's solo work, Remain In Light and New Order, most obviously—but more than ever he makes the sounds his own, as he should. After all, he was there, and that's not just some snarky lyric. Unlike many of the folks who've spent this decade pillaging "the unremembered '80s" with mixed results, Murphy spent his formative years living through that stuff, and it seems to have given him a defter touch when it comes to incorporating it into a modern context. As much as this music draws heavily on the past, it's not nostalgia by any means.

Even if it was, what glorious nostalgia it would be. Murphy's songwriting has never been stronger, and his lyrics are as incisive as ever. Sound of Silver excels as both an exultant party record and an intense personal listening experience. If he hadn't already, with this release, Murphy establishes himself as one of the great artists of this generation, somebody with skill to filter out the bull and show his world—and himself—for what it is, all while moving asses worldwide. When some music geek cooked up the term "Intelligent Dance Music" to describe Aphex Twin and whatnot back in the '90s, this probably isn't what he had in mind, but it should have been.

Grade: A Download: "All My Friends," "North American Scum" Web:

Stream the full album at MySpace