There’s a certain amount of cynicism that comes with listening to LCD Soundsystem’s latest.
After all, it’s hard not to be skeptical when a band literally announces new music with a lengthy apology letter. That’s precisely what grizzled frontman James Murphy did last year, in response to fans who were vexed by LCD’s reunion following an emotional, highly publicized farewell concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 2011.
“In my naiveté, I hadn’t seen one thing coming: there are people … who feel betrayed by us coming back and playing, who had traveled for or tried to go to the MSG show, and who found it to be an important moment for them, which now to them feels cheapened,” Murphy wrote in a meandering Facebook scrawl.
Adding more sour grapes, Murphy recently admitted to The New York Times that billing it as the band’s final show was a deliberate ploy to sell more tickets. So it’s only natural to think that, along with their umpteen festival and solo dates, American Dream is just a flagrant cash grab for the indie-rock veterans, whose past three albums of sprawling dance-floor diatribes captured the mounting hopelessness and reckless abandon of mid-2000s youth.
Thankfully, any dubiety melts away with the burbling opening chords of Oh Baby, a propulsive slice of ’80s synth-laden nostalgia that taps into the familiar feelings of longing and isolation that have become LCD’s staple. American Dream (***1/2 out of four) leans into those emotions even further, as Murphy, now 47, fervently grapples with his own fleeting youth throughout the album’s 10 tracks (a pleasantly lean effort, given that most songs clock in at five minutes or more).
On Change Yr Mind, a frantic loner’s anthem punctuated by squelching guitar licks, Murphy candidly describes his inability to get out of bed, but also seems to comment on present insecurities about the band. “I’ve just got nothing left to say and I’m not dangerous now the way I used to be once,” he sings in a gravelly lilt. “I’m just too old for it now, at least that seems to be true.”
The forlorn How Do You Sleep? is similarly a downer, as he laments his loneliness and tendency to take “one step forward and six steps back” over a feverish electronic beat. But the mood lightens ever so slightly on the rubbery Tonite, in which Murphy cheekily contemplates online personas and self-reinvention far more convincingly than Arcade Fire did on their limp social critique Everything Now last month.
Call the Police, too, offers moderate political commentary over David Bowie-esque guitars, as he anthemically denounces party divides and hate groups. (“When oh, we all start arguing the history of the Jews, you got nothing left to lose — gives me the blues.”) The callbacks to Bowie’s Berlin era are no mistake: In fact, Murphy closes the album with a poignant, slow-building eulogy to the late rock icon titled Black Screen, in which he mournfully sings through a vocoder about loss and legacy, before fading out with a delicate piano and bass arrangement.
Casual fans of LCD may be disappointed that American Dream doesn’t have any cuts as immediately catchy as their well-known All My Friends or Daft Punk is Playing at My House. But as a whole, it succeeds as a consistent, expertly produced album that doesn’t upend Murphy’s time-tested formula for rousing, danceable rock music with a beating heart.
Download:Change Yr Mind, How Do You Sleep?, Black Screen
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