It’s really hard to imagine the 00s without James Murphy. Whether he was bringing Daft Punk to your house, or whether he was manning the boards for someone else, it seems like Murphy was always around. Now we come to what he is calling the swan song for LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening. Will it be enough to leave us with lasting memories of fondness, or will we turn towards indifference as his star begins to fade on the horizon.
“Dance Yrself Clean” begins the record, and while it could be a whole lot stronger, this isn’t the worst way to begin the new album. It begins with just some minimal percussive elements, which go on for what seems like an eternity, while lyrics are sort of spoken, as opposed to sung. At the 3 minute mark, the song turns into a club banger. While you can appreciate the development of sonic textures that Murphy has placed emphasis on with his last two album, one can’t help but feel that getting straight to the point would have left the record to start with one of his best complete tracks.
You jump right into the single from there with “Drunk Girls,” which sort of seems like a haphazard song. The beats seem reminiscent of songs past, while the lyrics don’t really offer too much, no matter how many drunk girls you claim to know. And from there you go on to “One Touch;” yet another song that doesn’t do a whole lot to further Murphy’s credentials in the musical annals of time. Sure, showing the masses you can make a dance song go for 8 minutes is something to tip your hat to, if the song doesn’t do too much, it all seems irrelevant, and such is the case here.
But, then LCD Soundsystem takes you for an entirely different ride. “All I Want” doesn’t seem to far of a stretch from some of the more exploratory tracks on Sound of Silver, and you can really find yourself sliding inside this song despite a the length and a touch of redundancy. “I Can Change” follows suit with a bit more exploration, and even pushes the dancier side of the things. Murphy’s vocals don’t come off in that shouting chant he’s usually known to release, and it creates a joyous song that brings back the nostalgia of bands like Depeche Mode and OMD.
Then, he takes a U-turn, and sort of goes back on the promise of the last two tracks. “You Wanted a Hit” has some redeeming qualities towards the middle of the song, and while I appreciate his stance on not trying to make hits, choosing instead to follow his own path, I’m not sure he always chooses the best options, especially when he has such quality tracks to offer, as he did in the middle of the This Is Happening. Don’t even get me started on “Pow Pow;” I think I’m owed an extra amount of time in my life just for listening to this track. Ugh. “Somebody’s Calling Me” just continues the downward slide from there. It just seems like he could have done so more, and at time, the song just sounds like even James himself was bored with writing it. Then again, that just might be personal taste.
Then he comes back with “Home” to close out the album. It has a bit more of a singing vocal here, and the beat has this underlying hook that sucks you back into the album. If you add the length of the song, you can clearly see what kind of dance party ensues here, and that’s precisely what you wanted from This Is Happening. Unfortunately, the brightest spots on this record don’t really break through the inadequacies of the rest of the tracks. Personally, it seems like such a shame, as the last decade wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun without having LCD Soundsystem in our lives, and perhaps this is why he’s walking away, as James Murphy hasn’t convinced anyone with this effort that his heart is still in it.
Download: LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change [MP3]