Beats on Repeat: LCD Soundsystem’s self titled album, 10 years later

This month marks the 10 year anniversary of LCD Soundsystem’s self titled album. It is amazing that its been 10 years. With smartly constructed and accessible dance songs, LCD Soundsystem provided a soundtrack for those kids with a desire to dance their cares away.

“Losing My Edge” was the first exposure of many to LCD Soundsystem. In this song, James Murphy takes a stance on aging. He is quite sardonic as he sings “I was the first guy playing Daft Punk to the rock kids/ I played it at CBGB’s/ Everybody thought I was crazy…I’ve never been wrong.

While “Losing My Edge” does not actually appear on LCD Soundsystem (it appeared on a companion disc containing singles from 2002-2005), it is a perfect introduction to the band.  From the start, Murphy poised himself as a knowledgeable and experienced guy with the stories to tell. His beats could make the younger kids dance better than anyone.  It was just the beginning.

LCD Soundsystem was released in January 2005 on DFA Records, a label started by Murphy himself. Widely praised by critics, it was even nominated for Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album. The album shines because there is a certain degree of ebb and flow. Moments of built-up tension are followed by moments of surrender.

The album kicks off with “Daft Punk Is Playing in My House.” Murphy proclaims “Daft Punk is playing at my house/ I’ll show you the ropes, kid/ I’ll show you the ropes.” The song itself gave homage to Daft Punk, the influential French electronica duo known for club songs such as “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” The theme of the song is similar to that of “Losing My Edge”; Murphy wants to share his expertise with the younger generation. There is a feeling of cautious ownership.

In the video, the camera moves around quickly, cutting to different locations. Lights flicker and flash to the beat. People fade in and out and dance in a surrealist fashion. Like the song itself, the video captures chaotic adventures, full of parties, friends, and experiences.

At the start of “Too Much Love,” Murphy’s vocals are set at a whisper-like volume.  It is almost as if he is trying to hold back and avoid becoming overwhelmed. The song closes out with a raised voice by Murphy and a variety of instruments. The lyric “With no memory to keep you up at night” conveys carelessness. It is about forgetting troubles and just enjoying one’s self.

“Tribulations” has a jumpy synth beat. Like with many LCD songs, there is an aspect of carelessness.Its not about being too-cool; It is a matter of being cool with yourself and own hanging with those people who get it.

“Never Tired As When I’m Waking Up” is an odd track as it does not fit with the overall dance-party aesthetic of the album. It is a slowed-down recovery track.  It is a moment of taking stock in what you’ve done, cleaning yourself up, and making a decision to change (or stay the same). In the song, Murphy is largely uncertain with his state of being as he sings, “Seems it could be simple/ If I could just grow up/ Never gonna get it now.”

The upbeat hits come right back with “On Repeat,” another one of the stand out tracks. “Disco Infiltrator” has one of the catchiest beats on the album. Murphy’s vocals are soulful as he howls through the choruses. There is a sense of intricacy throughout the song as it combines keyboard effects, cowbell, percussion, synthesizers, and samples from Kraftwerk’s “Home Computer”.

The album closes with “Great Release.” This 6:35 minute song begins with simple piano chords.  Then Murphy’s vocals join the track and sings, ” And it feels like I’m coming home/ And it’s smells like I’m learning now.” It is a release of stress and anxiety, following by a moment of clarity. It is the perfect closing track for the album. While the album was full of frantic moments, in this moment it all comes back to the start.  One can almost image the sun rising across the horizon.

The thing I always liked about LCD Soundsystem was their ability to write appealing dance songs.  The songs are about common experiences and it is done in a smart and accessible way. LCD is not about standing quietly with your arms crossed while the band plays. With LCD, it is an active enjoyment. The songs encourage strangers to become friends. It urges the listener to take a chance, find a partner, and dance it out.

Since the release of this album, there have been quite a few contenders enter the indie-rock dance arena.  There was MGMT and Matt & Kim. There was Passion Pit and Hot Chip.  While some of these bands stuck around and others faded backed into obscurity, they were all influenced by James Murphy and his project known as LCD Soundsystem.

LCD Soundsystem released a few more albums (Sound of Silver in 2007 and This is Happening in 2010), and hung it up in 2011 with an epic farewell concert at Madison Square Garden.  A DVD of the concert plus a documentary was subsequently released called “Shut Up and Play the Hits.” It seems even in the end, LCD maintained a wry cynicism that told smart music fans its OK to yearn for smart dance music.

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