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So this is it. Nearly a decade on from the best debut single in modern times James Murphy has finally called time on LCD SOUNDSYSTEM. Three albums (four if you include Nike-sponsored jogging wheeze ’45:33’) since effectively writing his own eulogy LCD have finally succombed to the inevitable law of entropy and decided enough is enough. After the towering majesty of 2007’s ‘Sound of Silver’ many, myself included, wondered just where Murphy could go next whilst still working within the self imposed LCD framework. It’s a question you feel Murphy asked himself many times too over the past three years and is probably a leading factor in his calling time on the project.
So as a swansong how does ‘This Is Happening’ stand up? From the opening beat, ‘This Is Happening’ is comfortably familiar. There had been talk of this being the band’s ROCK album but really it is more prosaic. ‘This Is Happening’ isn’t a Dance album or a Rock album or a Disco-Punk album, it’s quite simply an LCD Soundsystem album.
So while the (un)holy trinity of Bowie, Reed and Pop clearly hover over the whole affair, the greatest shadow is Murphy’s own. Whether it’s the ghost of Losing My Edge haunting One Touch, Drunk Girls’ dumb, fun reprise of North American Scum, or the boozy sentimentality of I Can Change, echoing ‘Sound of Silvers’ stand out moments Someone Great and All My Friends, Murphy has succeeded in becoming his own genre and influence.
Still this is one time when familiarity hasn’t yet bred contempt, and there’s much to enjoy here. Opening track Dance Yrself Clean’s abrupt change will have people leaping for the volume control while punching their fist in the air, while the aforementioned I Can Change tugs at all the right heartstrings. You Wanted A Hit probably just overstays it’s welcome at nine minutes but as rants by musicians about ‘the industry’ go is fairly uniquie in not making me gag, and the closer Home sees the band go out on a high.
At the end of the day, ‘This Is Happening’s’ chief fault is simply that the album that preceded it was just so good, so complete that anything else seems an unnecessary footnote. Sure a footnote that is head and shoulders above most the competition and will proudly sit in the upper reaches of most end of year polls, but a footnote nonetheless. Flip ‘SOS’ and ‘TIH’ around in the band’s discography and you have the perfect measured career trajectory, indicating how the man whose timing has always seemed so perfect peaked too soon.
On stage last month Murphy cut an obsessive figure, he’s always given off the air of a perfectionist but striding back and forth constantly making changes to various knobs and dials, it felt like he was reaching for something that just wasn’t there. Perhaps that was just a response to Brixton Academy’s notoriously bad sound, but still having seen the band play on every European tour since the start of the decade this was – while a great concert – lacking the urgency and euphoria of earlier shows.
40 years old, Murphy sensibly appears to have no desire to be the oldest hipster in town, no matter that he still remains more interesting than the kids who came up from behind. A year or more of touring lies ahead and there’s still plenty of time to change his mind, but right now the idea of another LCD album just seems utterly superfluous.
One of the best writers and producers of recent years still has plenty left to give, that is clear. The soundtrack for Greenberg, recorded by Murphy and released under his own name gives just one clue of what lies next. Hopefully freeing himself, temporarily at least, from the expectations of labels, and indeed fans, will be no bad thing.