LCD Soundsystem-This Is Happening

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In the span of five short years, James Murphy has established himself and his band, LCD Soundsystem, as the frontiersmen of the alternative-dance/dance-punk/whatever you want to call it genre. With 2005's self-titled debut, and its hipster-bashing single "Losing My Edge" and the irresistible "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House," Murphy made a name for himself as a David Bowie-meets-David Byrne musical trendsetter. Still, some songs (notably, "Tribulations") felt somewhat incomplete and unfinished, and it seemed like there was much potential that could be dug up.

Then came the 2007 masterpiece Sound of Silver. Simple words cannot fully express my enduring affection for this album. The hypnotic "Someone Great" might be electronic music's greatest achievement in the 21st century. Murphy's ability to build up "All My Friends" from one rhythmically uneven piano to a flowing, multi-layered sound orgy is nothing short of genius.

Now comes This Is Happening, LCD's third and, if horrible rumors are true, final album. Being the David Bowie fanatic that I am, I can't help but compare this album to Bowie's "Heroes." Both works exhibit electronic and rock music fused together in progressive and gratifying ways. Both albums demonstrate a music innovator at the top of his game, refusing to compromise with his sounds. And yet, as exceptional as both albums are, they don't quite reach the heights of their respective predecessors (in the case of "Heroes," Bowie's 1977 masterwork Low.)

On the nine-minute opener "Dance Yrself Clean," Murphy begins with a soft rhythm of percussion and muted vocals. Even first-time listeners will realize that something big and exciting is about to arise at any moment. Sure enough, at the 3:09 mark, "Dance Yrself Clean" explodes into a stunning mix of heavy synths and Murphy's high-pitched vocals, all the meanwhile keeping the original rhythm intact. Many bands and artists use the soft-to-loud transition in their songs (Foo Fighters-syndrome), but few make it as exciting as Murphy and his band.

After the dumb and fun single "Drunk Girls" and pure electro house of "One Touch," we reach the album's apex. "All I Want," a song clearly influenced by Bowie's classic song "Heroes" and structurally similar to "All My Friends," is the album's single highest point. Like Bowie's work on "Heroes," Murphy exhibits his remarkable ability to transform an avant-garde blend of sliding guitar loops, repeated piano riffs, assorted "bleeps" and vocals into an astonishing anthem of romantic pleas. Then comes "I Can Change," the album's likely second single. Backed by a simple rhythm of synths and drum machines, Murphy takes the opportunity to display his undervalued vocal talents, especially in regards to his ability to create gorgeous vocal harmonies.

What truly separates Sound of Silver from This Is Happening, nevertheless, is the latter's slight drop-off at the album's end. While the Talking Heads-esque "Pow Pow" and the bluesy "Somebody's Calling Me" are certainly enjoyable, they can't quite match the sheer excitement of, say, "All I Want" or "Dance Yrself Clean." On the other hand, the music on "You Wanted A Hit," a critical take on the music industry, doesn't live up to the song's bold premise.

If you're only starting to dig into LCD's catalogue, I still strongly suggest starting with Sound of Silver. Even so, This Is Happening lives up to and exceeds its enormous hype. All in all, This Is Happening is an excellent third effort from one of music's most consistently innovative acts.


-David Biel

LCD Soundsystem - Dance Yrself Clean by desborachos