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LCD Soundsystem

+ {James Murphy} + {Pony} + {Speedking}

Whether or not DAFT PUNK has ever played at LCD geezer James Murphy’s house is neither here nor there for lovers of the man’s ‘Soundsystem, a so solid crew of groovy dudes who could bump ’n’ grind with the best of them. Of course, the associated opening line stem from one of the dance posse’s mid-00s hits, `Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’, a track reminiscent of the Big Apple’s acid daze of the 80s. While James Murphy’s LCD SOUNDSYSTEM stir up a heady cocktail of Arthur Baker, CAN, HEAVEN 17, the aforementioned DAFT PUNK, and er… the “GANG OF FALL” (sic), rpms and beats bounce out from just about space from under his fantasy mirror-ball of life.
One could trace Murphy’s musical affiliations back to the mid-90s when he was a member of post-hardcore acts, Pony (as drummer Jimmy James), and, in turn, Speedking. The first of these trios, Pony (alongside guitarist Dallas Crowe and bassist Kitty DuBois), were around only long enough to release a few singles and one album for Homestead: COSMOVALIDATOR (1994) {*5}, while, with Chet Sherwood and Miriam Maltagliati, Speedking – aka The Speedking Trio – delivered only four 7” singles.
The year 2000 was a turning point for Murphy, as with likeminded Tim Goldsworthy, he instigated the DFA dance imprint to help get recognized several of Brooklyn’s up-and-coming in-house acts. Having apparently met programmer/producer Tim as an assistant engineer on soundtrack man DAVID HOLMES’ electronica set, “Bow Down To The Exit Sign”, the faceless DFA wanted a bit more than just a behind the scenes existence.
While Goldsworthy would mentor his new best buddy at the controls, “the coolest dude on the planet” (as described by city rag-mags) Murphy, would step up to the mic and declare LCD SOUNDSYSTEM in the house – so to speak. `Losing My Edge’ was the first of a string of DFA-endorsed 45s that emerged between 2002 and 2005, its GIL SCOTT-HERON-esque wordplay drawing in a fanbase with the fashionistas and with night-time dancing-dayglo punks; born in 1970, James carried his listener back to the days of CAN and CAPTAIN BEEFHEART in the 60s! – as if he were there! – to the advent of punk, Ibiza and DAFT PUNK. Yes, he was there – somewhere in his own mind, and loving it!
Breaking from the downtown beatnik poetry of his previous opal, the punk-y `Give It Up’ was like the GANG OF FOUR backing PRINCE, while `Yeah’ (two exhaustive versions) played to meet the needs of his home city’s once-thriving Studio 54 scene. And bolstered by a further batch of UK-friendly hits (from the SUICIDE-meets-FALL-esque `Movement’ and the aforementioned `Daft Punk…’, to `Disco Infiltrator’ and the DAFT PUNK!-cloned `Tribulations’), disc one of his/their eponymous Top 20 breaker, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (2005) {*9}, had everyone raving from punks to anyone in need of a leg-up remix; disc two was completed by all the LCD singles, A’s and B’s.
Having already added a live/studio band to promote his works (namely drummer Pat Mahoney, vocalist Nancy Whang, synth-man Gavin Russom and bassist Tyler Pope, among others – Tim was now AWOL), Murphy and his LCD SOUNDSYSTEM were commissioned by Nike to write a piece of music to promote jogging. Lasting as long as it said on the tin, the album-length `45:33’ was available to download by iTunes and subsequently issued as a 4-part/2×12” single in October 2006.
Taking krautrock and/or PRINCE as his template (examples `Get Innocuous!’ and `Time To Get Away’), Murphy again hit pay-dirt with LCD’s second set, SOUND OF SILVER (2007) {*8}. Clever to disguise his mischievous sarcasm and wry wit, the punchy `North American Scum’ track and the sombre JONATHAN RICHMAN-meets-MOLDY PEACHES-esque `New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’, was perfect fodder to switch one’s moods; fans of a lighter funk should try `Us V Them’ – CAN in bed with NEW ORDER anyone?!
If one could extricate oneself from Murphy’s multitude of self-indulgent re-mix 12”-ers (with the exception of his version of ALAN VEGA’s `Bye Bye Bayou’), a collaborative record with Mahoney: FABRICLIVE. 36 (2007) {*6}, and a soundtrack for GREENBERG (2010) {*6} – the latter adjusting works from STEVE MILLER to GALAXIE 500 – album number three was another example of Murphy’s majesty.
Now in a way, the toast of New York, Murphy and his ‘Soundsystem posse (who’d added guitarist Al Doyle in the meantime), were now transatlantic Top 10 favourites for album three, THIS IS HAPPENING (2010) {*7}. Breaking down barriers between acerbic dance tracks,`Dance Yrself Clean’, `One Touch’, `I Can Change’, etc, and a solitary short-sharp-shock punk dirge in `Drunk Girls’, the “21st Century Schizoid Man” Murphy – at least in musical terms – had re-booted an otherwise redundant indie-dancefloor scene in the space of under a decade. Pity, then, that Murphy brought down the curtain at a farewell concert at Madison Square Garden on April 2, 2011; a rockumentary-type movie (entitled “Shut Up And Play The Hits”) was premiered of this sold-out gig, which divulged his reasons for quitting on a high note. Finally released in 2014, THE LONG GOODBYE: LCD SOUNDSYSTEM LIVE MADISON SQUARE GARDEN {*8} was a fitting finale as James Murphy took on production work for ARCADE FIRE’s “Reflektor” album, and the instrumental score to Noah Baumbach’s flick, `When We’re Young’; it opened with his lullaby-ish re-mix of BOWIE’s `Golden Years’.
That aforesaid “fitting finale” was thrown out with the bathwater when Murphy’s LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – featuring live backing from co-scribe Doyle and usual suspects; plus main percussionist Korey Richey on keys/synths – re-emerged for Columbia Records with chart-topping comeback double-set, AMERICAN DREAM (2017) {*8}. Bookending the album by paying respective homage to the recently departed ALAN VEGA and BOWIE on `Oh Baby’ (the sequel to SUICIDE’s “Dream Baby Dream”?) and the lengthy `Black Screen’, Murphy could empower his own take on the post-punk dance scene. Elsewhere there was spotlight for Nancy Whang on the TALKING HEADS-like `Other Voices’, whilst seductive singles `Call The Police’ and the title track (plus the PiL-esque `How Do You Sleep?’), pointed to a future with LCD, rather than without.
© MC Strong/MCS Oct2013-Sep2017

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