James Murphy makes good music. It’s as simple as that. His eponymous 2005 debut self-titled album – I say “his” because you get the impression that the rest of the people named on the album simply do as he tells them – was a refreshingly mature electronic album to be treasured, and his (or their?) follow-up does not disappoint. In fact, it thrills.
Sound of Silver begins in the same vein as the last album, with many tracks displaying Murphy’s appreciation for other bands and artists. Opener “Get Innocuous!” is very Bowie-esque in terms of vocals, and the same can be said of the eight-minute long electronic opera “Us V Them.” Other tracks like “Watch the Tapes” and “Time to Get Away” have more in common with the new wave funky guitar styles of which Murphy is so fond.
It may seem as if LCD Soundsystem simply create music in the style of their favourite bands, put it all on an album and expect to get lauded for it. However, there is more to it than this. All their songs contain something which makes the song specifically ‘LCD’, whether it be the simple repetition of drums and a bass line (as many of their tracks do) or spurts of noise from obscure instruments mid-track (cowbells on “Time to Get Away” or kalimbas on “Us V Them”). These are all things we have seen on the band’s previous album. On Sound of Silver, there are two tracks which jump up above anything they have done before.
“Someone Great” is the fourth track of the album. A story builds up over undulating electro whirls and rhythmic synth chords about an unspecified tragedy with Murphy’s tantalizingly ambiguous lyrics leading you on. You find yourself getting emotionally attached to the narrator, and lyrics like “The worst is all the lovely weather/I’m stunned it’s not raining” stick in your head hours after listening.
Many critics I have read who have reviewed the album say this is the favourite track on it. However, for this listener, the next track “All My Friends” is really something special. Murphy narrates feelings about a life without regrets and growing up over repeating piano, bass and drums. The lyrics are poignant and precise: “I wouldn’t change one stupid decision for another five years of life” and the closing refrain, “If I could see all my friends tonight” is both euphoric and haunting.
There are other tracks on the album. “North American Scum” was the first single released, and while Murphy screeching the punky refrain is a far cry from the lyrics of the previous two tracks I described, it is an exceedingly catchy song about the Atlantic divide and also showcases evidence of LCD “the band,” with Nancy Whang’s very effective backing vocals.
Sound of Silver is a dance album with meaning, and although all the tracks can not live up to the two that make up the middle of the album, there is not a weak track on it. It is a thoroughly enjoyable listen, as well as thought provoking, and while it is not a masterpiece, it certainly contains a couple.
James Murphy makes good music and he will never disappoint.