James Murphy’s seminal New York dance-punk outfit LCD Soundsystem reunited earlier this year at Californian music festival Coachella. They then went and headlined Glastonbury’s Other Stage on Sunday, played T In The Park and a whole bunch of other stuff.
Having previously split up in 2011 following three superlative LPs and a glorious send-off show at Madison Square Gardens, the band had appeared dormant until the surprise release of festive track ‘Christmas Will Break Your Heart’. But now, as a thousand journalists gleefully dust off their ‘This Is Happening’ puns, Murphy has finally got the old gang back together. Yippee!
To celebrate the return of our favourite suited and stubbled dance wizard, here are LCD’s 10 best tracks. Start getting excited…
10. ‘Us vs Them’
James Murphy is a master of clever minimalism. As in many of LCD Soundsystem’s finest moments, ‘Us vs Them’ (taken from second album ‘Sound Of Silver’) spends the first half of its eight minutes repeating a mantra and jerking and spasming over a simple beat, one note and some well-placed cowbells. It’s all in the dynamics, that build and build and then… bang: the big ol’ joyous payoff. Clever, clever lad.
9. ‘I Can Change’
“So ring the alarm, ring the alarm/ Bar me and hold me and cling to my arm/ Here it comes, here it comes,” croons Murphy, detailing a cloudy, drunken end-of-night lovers’ tiff over bouncing, squelching synth patters. It’s like a weary argument in an 80s pinball machine and hell, doesn’t that sound infinitely more fun than having it out in the back of an Uber?
8. ‘North American Scum’
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A dry, pithy ode to his city (“New York’s the greatest if you get someone to pay the rent (wahoo!)”), second album favourite ‘North American Scum’ is a fine taster of Murphy’s lyrical wit: a raised eyebrow and a wink set to an irresistible, hedonistic dancefloor anthem.
Taken from LCD’s debut, ‘Tribulations’ is perhaps still their darkest, most insistent floor-filler. Built around a needling, bassy synth throb, it interjects with a clashing guitar part and flickering drum machine pulse before erupting in a screeching, howling finale. Pure death disco.
6. ‘Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up’
Perhaps the most underrated LCD track of them all, you could be forgiven for thinking this first album cut was a lost track from ‘The White Album’. Like a sad, woozy cross between ‘Dear Prudence’ and ‘Sexy Sadie’, it’s unlike anything else in Murphy’s canon but a complete melodic masterclass.
5. ‘All I Want’
A standout from final album ‘This Is Happening’, ‘All I Want’ is basically a 21st century update of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, stripped back and repurposed for the jaded generation. A huge, ringing guitar motif peals out as Murphy sings about “the girl who will put up with all of your shit”. It’s a modern kind of love, but it sounds kind of beautiful from here.
4. ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’
“A-Ow! Ow!” From its very first seconds, ‘Daft Punk…’ is a sassy beast of a track – so full of trashy, underground New York cool it was born to soundtrack every decent party you’ll ever attend from here to eternity. More than a decade after its release, this one hasn’t aged a day.
3. ‘Losing My Edge’
The track that kicked it all off, ‘Losing My Edge’ is a track that no-one else could have written. So smart, so sarcastic, so singular – it needed an author a little older than the usual and one that, ironically, would prove that he was still way ahead of the kids through penning it. “I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables/ I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars/ I hear everybody that you know is more relevant than everybody that I know”. To this day, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more cutting and perfectly-pitched take down of the zeitgeist-hunting ‘I was there’ brigade.
2. ‘All My Friends’
From the insistent but upbeat keyboard rhythm that opens the track, ‘All My Friends’ is a near-faultless eight-minute exercise in euphoric pop. A misty-eyed reflection on growing up and ageing, it sets Murphy at the same old parties, with the same people and the same drugs, but knowing that somewhat inevitably something has changed. Anyone over the age of about 27 will feel a pang of recognition as Murphy explores the age old question of where did all the time go? But thankfully he also knows to cloak it in a gloriously sparkling melody so you can just dance those thoughts away, should you wish to prolong the illusion a little longer.
1. ‘New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’
In which LCD Soundsystem stake a good claim for writing the greatest ‘final song of the night’ track since ‘My Way’. All classy, classic pianos and heart-tugging melodic soars, it climaxes in big, blustering crashes of keys and ringing guitar solo before employing the ultimate finale trick: the fake ending. Another 50 seconds of lighters aloft, hands in the air celebration later and you have a modern Rat Pack-indebted standard. Thank you and goodnight.