Dance punk is one of those arenas of incessantly cheeky, absorbing music that remains largely untouched by the dreary sanity of larger society. LCD Soundsystem is the roller-skating Bo$$ of the arena, coated in brassy leather jackets and lots and lots of zippers.
And This Is Happening, LCD Soundsystem’s third and apparently final record, is one of those records that make the whole fucking place spin out of control.
In the environment of unsoiled courage, then, American producer James Murphy infects us with his LCD Soundsystem and outdoes the songwriting and trend-setting of various musicals movements with one diabolical beat.
So here’s Murphy, armed with what I’ve read elsewhere as a “disco shotgun,” on This Is Happening and he’s gunning down the shells of what music should be with every fascinating collage of meaty, groovy funk. The Eno, the Bowie, and even the Prince are all present in the form of clattering influences tangling over the pieces of what should, by all accounts, be considered an impressive musical legacy by this point.
But what does the Bo$$ make his fizzy, funky, fresh album about? Love, really, and the spaces between people. And insecurity. And pain.
The record opens with the dazzling “Dance Yrself Clean.” Mumbling to himself, Murphy repeats lines about “present company” before the Moog rolls right into his pots-and-pans beat. The mumbles expand and Murphy nearly loses all control as the song drives on.
“All I Want” rolls with feedback and some swirling guitar. Murphy could have passed the cut off as a cover of “Heroes,” but he takes it nearly in another direction entirely. “It’s no fun to be predictably lame,” he sings.
The nine-minute “You Wanted a Hit” rocks with disco inspiration and Murphy’s clear intent. “You wanted a hit, but maybe we don’t do hits,” he offers without noticing “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” or nearly every single cut on This Is Happening or Sound of Silver for that matter. It’s nearly self-depracating, with Murphy saying “You wanted it smart, but honestly I’m not smart!”
With the possibility of this record being Murphy’s last as LCD Soundsystem, the reluctance in the lyrics becomes like clarifying neon fire. Murphy’s never really been a comfortable frontman and he really is an unlikely Bo$$, even if I’ve christened him one in ridiculous exposition. What he really wants, it seems, is to thumb through Eno and wade through Kraftwerk.
So sure, This Is Happening could be a retreat from the spotlight as much as it is an effort to stay in it. It is an vulnerable record, evidenced by the wobbly faux-confidence of the spoken words of “Pow Pow,” and yet at the same time the beats and melodies are confident, proud and blaring with funk and soul.
Should this be a closing of the book for LCD Soundystem, it’s been a fucking great ride. This Is Happening is happening, after all, and missing it would be a catastrophe of disco-punk proportions. And nobody wants that.