Can you dance to a mid-life crisis? That's the question James Murphy seems to be asking on This Is Happening
, the third and perhaps final LCD Soundsystem record. Rampant internet speculation that this is the band's swan song, is backed up by the corrosive, weary world view that permeates the album. Murphy complains about fans, lovers, the music industry, almost daring you to dismiss him as whiny and self-centered. This is a 'bite the hand that feeds me' record, and Murphy's certainly earned the right. "You Wanted A Hit" is about as subtle as a large mallet, aimed squarely at the record companies. "You wanted a hit/But maybe we don't do hits." Really? Just about all of the nine tunes on here could be hits, were it not for Murphy's tendency to deliver songs above the eight minute mark. Murphy declares "We won't be your babies anymore." Well maybe if he stopped throwing tantrums like a baby...
There's a nothing to lose perversity behind This Is Happening
. Murphy blatantly rewrites Bowie's "Heroes," in "All I Want" but covers his emotions with contemptuous, noodling, wall-to-wall synth and guitar solos. On "Pow Pow," he seems to be sending up the entire idea of dance music, using navel-gazing, blank verses and a deliberately idiotic chorus of, you guessed it, "Pow, pow, pow, pow."
Murphy is in no hurry. He lets his songs unfold, starting with light percussion, atonal synth flourishes, slowly building four on the floor kick drum. With LCD's usual poetic musical simplicity and full absorption of the lessons of Kraut-rock, the strong material here can't be questioned. "Dance Yrself Clean," the album's opener, slowly builds from a one note bass synth part to a yelping, driving climax. "Every nights a different story/It's a thirty car pile-up with you/Everybody's getting younger/It's the end of an era it's true." It's clearly not just his band that's breaking up. Murphy plays the comfortably numb, zombie rock star in "Somebody's Calling Me," fielding endless calls and texts for his attention, over a hypnotic, minimal groove reminiscent of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way." "Drunk Girls" is every bit the sarcastic, fist pumping rock anthem fans and critics dream of, grabbing the tribal "boys" chant from Bowie's (again) "Boys Keep Swinging," and adding girls to the mix. "I Can Change" is a gorgeous, melodic trance-out, detailing the first blush of love and it's inevitable demise. "Oh this is the time, the very best time/So give me a line and take me home, take me over/But dashing the hopes, smashing the pride/The morning's got you on the ropes." Later he cleverly winks "Love is a curse, shoved in a hearse/Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry/And this is coming from me."
No-one's had more to do with expanding the horizons of dance music in the past five years than James Murphy. He's done his time in the trenches. If the next record's a collection of his favorite Appalachian folk ballads, then so be it. I'll buy it. -dan siegler
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MP3: "Drunk Girls" (This Is Happening)
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