The final hurrah for James Murphy’s uber-hip dance outfit?! If so then this third, and final offering, perfectly draws to a close the triumvirate of New York albums, that traversed the sounds of Bowie, Eno, Talking Heads, Can and many more luminaries.


‘This Is Happening’

Murphy poised and ready

DFA/Parlophone (EMI)
LP (x2 gatefold)/CD (various packages and Ltd Editions)/Download (bonus tracks)


TRACK LIST

SIDE A

1. Dance Yrself Clean     (8:56)
2. Drunk Girls     (3:42)

SIDE B

1. One Touch     (7:45)
2. All I Want     (6:41)
3. I Can Change     (5:54)

SIDE C

1. You Wanted A Hit     (9:06)
2. Pow Wow     (8:25)

SIDE D

1. Somebody’s Calling Me    (6:53)
2. Home     (7:53)

PERSONNEL


James Murphy —
Acoustic piano, bass, bongos, Casio ct-410v/ mt-68/ Mt-400/ pt 1, claps, congas, cowbells, drums, Ema VOS 3 putney, eml 101, ems     polysynthi/ synthi A, fun machine, glockenspiel, guitar, Korg poly ensemble/ prophet 600, moog cdx/ rouge, noise, omnichord, percussion, Roland    sh-101/ system 100/ tr-606/ tr-808, simmons, tambourine, toms, vocals, vocoder, Wurlitzer, Yamaha CA 60

Matthew Cash — ems VCS 3 putney

Jason Disu — Trombone

Al Doyle — Guitar and Yamaha CS 60

Jayson Green — Vocals

Pat Mahoney — Drums and vocals

Tyler Pope — Bass

Gavin Russom — ems polysynthi, vocals and whispers

Matt Thornley — Snaps

Nancy Whang — Vocals and yells

Produced by James Murphy, co-written with Doyle, Mahoney, Pope, Russom and Whang on certain tracks



James Murphy is snapped by the camera, suspended in a mock semi-Elvis hip-swinging pose, on the front and back cover of his latest empirical dance album for thinkers – ‘This Is Happening’.
This gesture pose goes even further in referencing Murphy’s omnivorous methods, with the similarities to Bowies ‘Lodger’ album hardly going unnoticed.
There’s even a hint of that vague incredulous but vulnerable Bryn Ferry expression to it, whilst inside the cover we find a monochrome photograph of the LA studio – where this album was produced – that seems eerily reminiscent of CAN’s legendary Inner Space décor and set-up.
Already without even having to listen to a single note, we are handed a myriad of signs, pointing out that our achingly cool Murphy is a collector of both seminal key imagery and music.
His whole life has been catalogued and crammed into the trio of LCD Soundsystem albums.
Like Bowies own seminal triumvirate of 70’s Berlin period works, he too creates an impressive aura and almost mystical methodology around his collection of records. In a way he substitutes the cold war, heroin addled seriousness of that damp unwelcoming skyline with that of New York.
This album may have switched recording to the west coast, but it essentially remains intrinsically linked to the big apple, in mood, atmosphere, themes and lyrical content.

I’ve already drawn upon Bowie as an obvious influence upon Murphy’s sound, but there are also various other rich allusions made to Talking Heads, Eno, David Sylvian & Ryuichi Sakamoto, ‘The Idiot’ era Iggy and even The Cars.
Though he seems to be both enacting to some degree and at the same time revelling in them, these references never prove distracting, rather endearing in fact.
There’s also an eager list of collaborators at the ready, drawn from a whose who list of current and past in vogue electronic acts, that lend vital support and co-write some of the tracks.
Nancy Whang (Juan Maclean), Pat Mahoney (Les Savy Fav/ Hot Chip) and Tyler Pope of !!! – Whose former colleague and sometime LCD Soundsystem live drummer Jerry Fuchs died in a tragic accident involving a lift last year and whose name this album is dedicated to – all appear, usually to punctuate key moments in the song.
Murphy himself digs out an impressive array of old synths and instruments including rarely seen kit and countless emulators that are all steeped in yet more historical importance and currently very much the mode.
As evidenced on the actual record, he certainly uses them, though this can sometimes chain the sound to a specific retro epoch, resulting in a touch of over familiarity and cultural editorial chic.

‘This Is Happening’ seems more confessional then the last album, as Murphy laments tales of the onset of middle age, falling in and out of love, acting the fool until its almost too late and willing to compromise to please a certain somebody, that you wish to share your life with.
Each self effacing observation and clever wry vignette of rhetoric seems to suggest that our protagonist is reaching a reflective period in their life, taking stock and weighing up their worth in the world.
Analogies are made to feeling worn, weary and fed-up; perhaps the burden of being among the planets most uber edgy icons is becoming too much – at 40 years of age it seems surprising that he still got such a hip stature, in a way he’s like a more sprightly and younger Mark E Smith.
Whatever the truth, those shackles will soon be removed, as his timely announcement that this will indeed be the last ever LCD album, should allow some respite, though I’m in no doubt that Murphy will continue to always make music in one form or another.
Recent interviews suggest that his decision to call it quits is borne out of a number of reasons, including the natural running of its course and to some extent the unpredictability of the music industry – commenting that the bands label EMI may not even exist in a few years. An interesting further point, is that he goes on to remark the beneficial relationship that the band has had with the label, allowing them space to develop their sound and being left to their own devices on the most part, though on the track ‘You Wanted A Hit’, it suggests that their may have been some pressure to produce a successful record and that they probably didn’t have it all their own way.

Opening the album is the redolent tones of the David Bryne and John Cale like ‘Dance Yrself Clean’, where Murphy constructs a linear moody low riding synth classic. Those contagious pan rattling percussive rhythms kick in and we’re off on a roll, a second monumental shift pours on some heavier bass lines and extra banging drums, as Murphy switches from resigned They Might Be Giants wordplay to gradual resigned holla.
This pulsing stellar hypnotic bet tells a tale of dancing away and absolving yourself of all those unflattering home truths and reality check problems – you really are losing your edge this time.
I love the rather importune drum roll that comes unstuck near the end, which constantly throws me every time.

The leading single ‘Drunk Girls’ is the shouty one, which reworks ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ for the meow meow generation, effortlessly breezes through with certain aloofness.
The strongest connection to ‘Sound Of Silver’, that you’ll find on this entire album.

‘One Touch’ works further wonders with the best of ‘Lodger’, aping its almost disjointed tricky framework and banks of bubbling arpeggiators, to produce another driven thumper of a track. The bass stalks the track as Whang yells out like an over excited teenager with Murphy, who’s honed a more baritone low vocal impression of Bowie.

Personal favourites ‘All I Want’ and ‘I Can Change’ both use emotive swooning vocals and language to convey regret.
The first, relates to a shaky relationship, where Murphy pleads for forgiveness, he knows that he’s been a jerk and now begs for pity.
Robert Fripp evoking ‘Heroes’ arching sustained guitar riffs gently underline the fraught tempo, on this profound moving track.
The second track mockingly retorts clichés and takes a swipe at the parodies of love itself, whilst carousing over a clattering 80’s curio of a tune. Full of horizon grabbing searing melodic synths and chime filled percussion, this sudden clamour mantra for change is surprisingly moving.

‘You Wanted A Hit’ travels due east, mixing the oriental obsessed textures of David Slyvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto soundtrack work the more brightly synth pop of The Yellow Magic Orchestra, before making for a more radio friendly new wave rocking The Cars.
They even used this last week on Newsnight for a feature about the Booker Prize winning author David Mitchell’s latest epic ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’, which is based in the Dutch East Indies and Japan – I’m sorry to say that this may now become the tune of choice for anything concerning the orient from now on.

‘Somebody’s Calling Me’ sounds like a Weimar obsessed Goldfrapp performing Grace Jones ‘Nightclubbing’ in a honky tonk piano bar.
The creepy leading beat and rhythm slowly crawl along for the full seven minutes; the odd squelch halcyon synth changes the tone, bringing in an almost glowing climbing vine into the sunlight before dropping back into its brooding motif. It’s like the dream is finally over, and this is our last dance, as Murphy in a sinister fashion coaxes the ladies back to his place to see how he’s really living, which by the sound of things is far from clamorous and in fact seems bleak, ah the live of a troubadour.

‘This Is Happening’ manages to mix all the more sublime and emotive moments from the previous two albums-‘Sound Of Silver more so – in a kind of reappraisal like manner, emphasizing the LCD brand to an extent and encouraging the audience to analyse his life.
It’s inspiring that this is essentially a dance album, as the song writing remains quite introverted and lays bare certain amounts of self loathing, tackling themes which never usually get aired on the care free dancefloor.
Near enough every track poises infectious grooves, regardless of the multi-layered intricate playing and concentrated efforts of musicianship.
Murphy may sit there stony faced denying his talent, but it won’t wash with me. This record has been countlessly worked and re-worked over the last couple of years, betraying any sense of fluke or misshapen bumbling or accident. Great albums don’t just happen out of coincidence.
In my mind this is an improvement to some degree on the last album, and could just be labelled the grown up of the unholy trio of LCD records.
2010 has already seen a whole host of highlights, so it will truly take a masterpiece to shine through, ‘This Is Happening’ is now that contender, and could just be the swansong to my generation.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: