Some things that went away and came back: Arrested Development, far-right politics, bum bags. The latter two examples were never a good idea but the fact remains that, even when something was good, the past should sometimes remain in the past. And so LCD Soundsystem fans are faced with a conundrum. James Murphy’s electro-punk band defined New York cool from 2002 to 2011 and it’s hard to overstate how much they meant to people. When the group finally bowed out with a stellar third album (2010’s ‘This Is Happening’) and a legendary ‘last ever’ show at Madison Square Garden, it felt like a massive deal.
Murphy announced the comeback in 2015. Venting online, some fans claimed to feel betrayed, leading the frontman to pen a lengthy Facebook post countering that he hadn’t expected the backlash (how could the man who wrote the incredible line “Love is an astronaut / It comes back but it’s never the same” so lack insight?). Anyway, the good news is that ‘American Dream’ delivers, point by point, on everything you could want from an LCD Soundsystem album.
It’s a melancholy collection, wound tight with opaque lyrics; Murphy has always understood that the best pop songs mean nothing and everything at once. The flawless, synth-driven opening track ‘Oh Baby’ throbs with remorse; ‘Tonite’ is crisp, classic electro-punk; and the squealing ‘I Used To’ boasts something that sounds suspiciously like a power ballad guitar solo. All three deal with fear and confusion.
Bowie-esque lead single ‘Call The Police’ pierces the political turmoil that’s enveloped the US (“The old guys are frightened / And frightening to behold”) while the bassy ‘Other Voices’ sees Murphy marvel at his own mundane existence. He’s never sounded so world-weary. Well, he’s 47 and the world’s on fire – can you blame him? Nothing here equals 2007’s era-defining ‘All My Friends’. But even that’s accidentally definitive, because who could pin down this f**ked-up age? The band retains the uncanny power to encapsulate a place and time. This is a cautious return, not a triumphant one – and that proves LCD Soundsystem are very 2017.