“It’s as close to a perfect hybrid of dance and rock music’s values as you’re likely to ever hear.” - Pitchfork
I am a young fan of LCD Soundsytem. Young in age, yes, but, here, in my appreciation and love for the band. I had heard its dance tracks over the past few years, but never paid much attention to the group’s story, the production behind its discography, or its significance to Brooklyn, New York until this past New Year’s Eve. Since then, I’ve been locked in.
Founded in 2002 by frontman James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem hails from Brooklyn, New York. The group combines funk, dance, rock, and indie undertones to create some of the city’s most iconic indie-dance-rock tracks. Alongside Murphy, the band comprises Nancy Wang, Pat Mahoney, Tyler Pope, Al Doyle, Matt Thornley, and Korey Richey. The band’s released four albums since 2002 and officially disbanded in 2014 after a farewell show at Madison Square Garden. Since then, the group has reunited on several accounts, releasing their latest album American Dream, headlining festivals internationally. This November and December, the group will play a string of twenty shows at Brooklyn Steel.
Sound of Silver is my favorite LCD Soundsystem album. Released in 2007, it’s one of the group’s earlier projects, and its nine tracks boast some of the band’s most iconic contributions to the dance-punk New York realm of the 2000s. The album was eventually nominated for Best Electronic/Dance album at the Grammy’s. Named fittingly as an ode to Murphy’s use of tin foil and silver in the recording studio, Sound of Silver is—and I’ve had trouble thinking of other words to describe it—iconic. Here’s why:
The album opens with “Get Innocuous!”, which, for me, has become the most electrifying walking song. The gradual layering and repetition make me want to move. I suspected seven minutes of the same rhythmic patterns layered on top of each other would just be boring, but in contrast, it energises all that it accompanies.
Developed from the band’s “45:33”, a track the group created for Nike’s workout song commission, “Someone Great” is a lyrical masterpiece. Murphy grieves in simple words. He knows of loneliness and accepts the loss of even the most remarkable of relationships. He describes a simmering conflict, when tensions develop and we choose not to speak of them: “To tell the truth I saw it coming // The way you were breathing // But nothing can prepare you for it // The voice on the other end”. The voice on the other end complements this notion of loss as something unwritten or even unspoken: a sense rather than a verbal acknowledgment. And through the minutiae of grief, the song explains, we can foresee letting go.
I won’t spend too long on “All My Friends” because I’ll never adequately describe in writing the sensational, nostalgia-inducing effect this song has on its listeners. Murphy learned to love melody through this track. The 7:42 minutes are relentless, as Murphy describes coming to terms with your past—learning to embrace the “you” of decades prior as means for your present. The last minute of the song, during which Murphy asks repeatedly “where are your friends tonight?”, is remarkably 21st century New York: timeless, young, vast yet enclosed, nostalgic but current. The song defines the heartbreak but simultaneous glory of growing older, looking back, longing for your friends.
LCD Soundsystem’s 2012 Madison Square Garden performance of “All My Friends” is on Youtube. I watch it every two weeks. You witness Murphy embrace closure and transform his audience; people are dancing, crying, holding onto their friends, engulfed by this urge to accept the past and live presently. Rolling Stone ranked this track at 87 on its "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list. The live performance’s effect, physical, emotional, and mental, on this young New York crowd is a perfect visual of why the song ranks so high.
The album ends with “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”, a song about Murphy’s love-hate relationship with the city. This finale highlights, once again, how integral the album is to New York.
I never thought LCD Soundsystem's music could do anything but make me want to dance. Sound of Silver changed my mind. This album allows you reflection—a classic ready to stand the test of time.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons