As victory laps go, LCD Soundsystem are enjoying one hell of a valediction. Third album ‘This Is Happening’ is Number Three in the midweeks following its release on Monday (May 17) and looks set to be the New Yorkers’ most successful ever. It will also most likely be the last full album released under the LCD Soundsystem name.
According to James Murphy, the man who to all extents an purposes is the Soundsystem, making albums and then touring them takes over his life so completely that doing LCD Soundsystem in its current format isn’t fun. It means there’s less time for his label DFA, production work, film soundtracks – this year’s Greenberg OST was squeezed in during sessions for ‘This Is Happening’ – and other stuff he wants to try. Indeed when Murphy popped into NME a few months ago to do some filming which you’ll see online soon, he moaned that he didn’t have time to “write books, which is what I went to school for”.
While the decision to retire LCD means wave after wave of fresh Murphy-related creativity beckons, the other upside is that he is set to leave the world with a beautiful LCD triptych – three untouchable albums that have genuinely shaped culture – and there’s a lot to be said for that. In fact there’s a lot to be said for the perfect break-up in general.
It’s strange that bands who put so much effort into getting it right when on form lose all perspective when they end, and for whatever reason – fear, habit, money, self-delusion – go on aimlessly tarnishing their reputations forever.
The Who deserve to be regarded alongside The Beatles as a force that transformed musical culture in the 1960s, but having limped on for decades past their prime to the release of 2006’s turgid ‘Endless Wire’, they appear more followers than the Fab Four’s peers these days. The Clash too managed to end in a bit of a mess with sacked members, feuds and the chaotic ‘Cut The Crap’, and needed Mick Jones’ Big Audio Dynamite and his reunion with Joe Strummer for that project to resuscitate their final moments.
Even someone like Flight Of The Conchords got it wrong. Imagined if they’d stopped after series one, and never made the tired feeling second series, their current tour UK would be stopping traffic rather than rumbling on in the background.
The power of a good break up is there for all to see. The Smiths perhaps didn’t plan it, but with Johnny Marr’s departure effectively breaking the group up in 1987 it left the group who had only ever released perfect albums with no bad songs (well apart from ‘Money Changes Everything’). Even more impressively, Paul Weller did it on purpose, ending The Jam at the peak of their success, allowing the Modfather to go on and enjoy a creative and varied career while leaving his three-piece’s reputation perpetually golden.
So maximum respect to James Murphy, for not just for having the bravery to walk away from a good thing, but leaving us with three perfect albums that will never be tarnished. When, in 20 years time, some visionary lists their favourite records ‘Losing My Edge’-style LCD Soundsystem will be rightly in there.