Boomkat Product Review:
The much anticipated follow-up to 2007's beloved Sound Of Silver, LCD Soundsystem's third album, This Is Happening faces a tall order. Thus far, James Murphy and co. have enjoyed a career trajectory that's seen their critical caché rocketing to precariously unreasonable levels, and you can hear the pressure taking its toll on the writing. First off, just to be absolutely clear, whilst not quite so able to comprehensively harness the spirit-of-the-times as its predecessor, This Is Happening is still an exceptional record, and a major release, packed with virtuosic production touches and some of the finest dancefloor-oriented pop music you'll hear all year. 'One Touch', 'Pow Pow' and euphoric closer 'Home' all fit that billing superbly, yet these are also the tracks that tend to chart the band going through their own, familiar motions. Going back to the beginning, you'll find 'Dance Yrself Clean' is an oddly quiet first track, taking a good three minutes of shambling around before deploying a gigantic, lumbering analogue synth at full volume. When this finally drops, it proves to have been well worth hanging around for; the sonics of This Is Happening never fall short of the very highest standards. Also of note, this album's equivalent of SoS's mighty 'All My Friends' is surely 'All I Want', an ingenious piece of Bowie-influenced pop and a slight departure from the circuitry-fixated, floor-filling pomp that seeps through so much of This Is Happening. Next, lodged at the centre of the album comes 'I Can Change', a midtempo synth-pop delight that's very possibly the greatest thing here. For six euphoric minutes LCD Soundsystem seem to drop their guard and engage in a little disco romance - when they're in the mood, this is something that precious few other acts can match them at. As underlined by their early career highlight, 'Losing My Edge', LCD Soundsystem offer a uniquely self-aware, post-modern take on pop music and hipster culture in general. Indeed, you get the impression that James Murphy knows all too well that his greatest gift as an artist is his implacable taste and encyclopedic knowledge of his craft and its history. This is made plainly evident by the notion that much of his band's music seems to come in quotation marks - that was certainly true for a good deal of Sound Of Silver's highlights ('All My Friends' was an inspired patchwork seemingly constructed from Murphy's doubtlessly immaculate record collection and 'Get Innocuous' owed so much to Telex's 'Moscow Disco' it was almost comical). If, as has been suggested, This Is Happening turns out to be the final LCD Soundsystem album, 'You Wanted A Hit' might be a fitting epitaph. Across nine minutes of slick, new-wave inscrutability Murphy indulges in knowing self-analysis: "You wanted a hit/Well that's not what we do/You wanted it real/But can you tell me what's real?", later stooping to full on self-deprecation: "You wanted it smart/But honestly I'm not smart/No honestly, we're never smart/We fake it!/We fake it all the time". At one none-more-PoMo juncture he even drops a line that lambasts the previous line he sung. There's really no point critiquing an LCD Soundsystem record - they're perfectly happy to do the job for you. This apparent compulsion to constantly second guess the listener and outsmart critics might prove to be James Murphy's unravelling, and after a while you can't help but think: just sing me a song, James. Just sing us all a song - preferably one that isn't about how flawed your last one was. Actually, in keeping with the spirit of the album, I'd just like to conclude by explaining how I realise full well that this review hasn't necessarily engaged with the real substance of the music on This Is Happening to the degree that some of you may have hoped for, but nevertheless I wanted to let you all know that I'm aware of that, and surely my being aware of that sort of makes all this fine, if not slightly better than it otherwise would have been. No? No.