LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

In many ways, James Murphy has been to the decade just gone what Beck Hansen was to the 1990s: both had knocked around in relative obscurity for some time before galvanizing popular attention with a ridiculously cool sound at once in thrall to past scenes and dazzlingly, kaleidoscopically new. In Hansen's case, his skillful mix of hip hop, trad folk and cheesy muzak helped usher in an era of post-ironic ransacking of previously 'uncool' sounds and a particularly 90s blank-eyed re-appropriation of pop's past in a way that signified little and said less. In Murphy's case, his masterful cross-breeding of electro-pop, house and scratchy post punk has helped to consolidate an era of unironic ransacking of deathlessly cool sounds and a particularly early-21st century style of blank-eyed re-appropriation of pop's past in a way that signifies little and says less. Which is a rather long-winded way of saying that both men have made music so influential and essential that a hell of a lot of rock, pop and dance, good and bad, can be traced back to them.

The big difference between Hansen and Murphy is gravitas. As in Murphy has it, and it's this gravitas which gives LCD Soundsystem's second album, Sound of Silver, its remarkable intensity and focus. Whereas the self-titled first album was a little too diffuse, ranging over two discs from the body-popping electro of 'Too Much Love' to the morose Pink Floyd-isms of 'Never as Tired as When I'm Waking Up', Sound of Silver has a coherence which runs all the way through it; something of a rarity these days. The hissing, crackling snare and cheekily-tweaked toms which kick off opener 'Get Innocuous!' seem to signal a real statement of intent. Having siphoned off much off his enviably bountiful creativity into his '45.33' track for Nike, Murphy produced an album shorn of fat and self-indulgence but which still combines a staggering array of styles and sounds. The seven minute 'Get Innocuous!' begins as a sparse motorik rhythm, evolves into thrilling techno barrage and ends up sounding like a La Monte Young drone experiment. Even more surprising is Murphy's dead-on impersonation of late-70s Bowie, all profundo basso swoops and cracked grandeur. Murphy had already demonstrated his knack for impersonating his heroes' vocal ticks; his snotty, cranky channeling of Mark E Smith on breakthrough track 'Losing My Edge' was hilariously spot on. On Sound of Silver, he snuggly inhabits Phil Oakey's deadpan baritone on 'Someone Great' and mutates into Julian Casablancas on the Strokes-meet-Steve Reich ballad 'All My Friends'.

These two songs also form the album's emotional heart. 'Someone Great', which previously featured in '45.33' as an instrumental, is a lovely, affecting track build with interlocking melodies, scudding rhythms and a deep, viscous bassline. Murphy's mediation on the absurdity of loss could concern a busted relationship or a death; it's all kept admirably ambiguous, making the song sound like a pretty skyline with ominous rainclouds drifting across the horizon. The clouds burst on following track 'All My Friends', another long piece which sees Murphy ruminate once again on loss. However, this time the subject is what we lose as we get older, what Murphy has lost now fame and success has swung his way, about the sting of regret and the sweetness of memories. Soon to be 40, Murphy's relative age compared to many of his too-cool-for-school peers is one of his strengths since it allows him to suffuse a wickedly hip tune like 'All My Friends' with a humanity and warmth which recalls Michael Stipe's early 90s output.

These also some political commentary in the form of single 'North American Scum' which both satirises and celebrates the stereotype of dunderhead, privileged US kids. "Our young kids get to read it in your magazines/ we don't have those," he deadpans over a prime mutant disco beat. Meanwhile, 'New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down' takes a wry look at the scene-killing gentrification of NY and welds it to the kind of brittle-hearted balladry which filled Lou Reed's early-70s masterpieces Transformer and Berlin.

Musically, there's as much to take in as on the first album. While the taunt, rambunctious likes of 'It's Time to Get Away' and 'Watch the Tapes' are dead cert floor-fillers at any indie disco, the title track mixes mutant disco's cowbells-and-fretless bass shuffle with the early ambient house sound patented by The Orb. What's more, the album is structured so each track compliments the other and everything fits together as a work which can be listened to from beginning to end in one session, a quality which few albums released in the last decade possess.

LCD Soundsystem's next album, provisionally titled Why Do You Hate Music? and due to drop sometime this year, will be (if rumours are to be believed) entirely instrumental. Murphy has apparently also sited 80s reggae-lite troubadour Eddy Grant as an inspiration. Does that sound good? If not, you'd best start re-adjusting your coolness parameters now in readiness to receive James Murphy's next musical mutation.

Best tracks: 'Get Innocuous!', 'Someone Great', 'All My Friends'

Richard Morris

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