This isn’t what was meant to happen. Who okayed this album as a comeback?
Surely LCD Soundsystem, after so long away, should sound dated? Isn’t this the time when we can point at them and laugh because they’ve finally misstepped? Where’s the dull as sh*t album that fails to live up to former glories and expectations? It’s what all the great bands you love do when they return, isn’t it?
American Dream should be like the fourth Indiana Jones film. Packed full of familiar places and faces, gleaming with the promise of familiarity and nostalgia, only to turn out to be a steaming pile of rehashed ideas that should never have been recorded.
So what went wrong? How did we end up with an album like this? How exactly did LCD Soundsystem manage to pull this level of quality out of their bag after all this time?
The album is astonishing. Not astonishing considering the time or inactivity, or some other qualified justification, just simply astonishing. It doesn’t just stand up against anything they’ve recorded before, it stands firmly against any album.
Opener oh baby is beautiful and sounds like a melancholy comedown from Suicide’s classic Dream Baby Dream, other voices treads more recognisable LCD territory, almost a cross between Dance Yrself Clean and Losing My Edge and just as brilliant as both.
Alternately, i used to feels like a powerful updating or reboot of the Peter Gunn theme, only now it’s scoring a 1970s Italian horror movie by Argento. It’s intoxicatingly dark, yet familiar. change yr mind lets Murphy release his inner Grace Jones, gracefully. Pun aside, it’s a wonderfully experimental moment that somehow feels like something in the vein of early Jones colliding with Let’s Dance-era Bowie.
And that’s all just in the first half.
The second half doesn’t disappoint either; how do you sleep? is shouty, punky, irreverent. Using classic samples and driving rhythms, it has a lot in common with Murphy’s own legendary DFA Remix of NIN’s The Hand That Feeds’, dark but essential. The other two great moments of the second half are tonite and emotional haircut. The former is an insanely tongue-in-cheek change of gear, not light, but frivolous, and it knows it. That’s kind of the point. And it’s this understanding and use of tone and texture throughout the album that makes American Dream so good. It’s always twisting and turning and slipping just beyond expectation.
emotional haircut, on the other hand, is a rocky cut, something they don’t do enough of anymore. It’s not quite the proverbial ‘kick in the balls’ that Movement was on their debut, but it stills packs a seriously hard punch. It’s only real problem is when it does finally explode it’s too short-lived. More would have been appreciated.
Overall, American Dream is a compelling album on so many levels, one that manages to send a boundary-pushing band over the edge. And somehow instead of recording an un-listenable ambient, noisy mess like a post-dance generation equivalent to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, you get something very different, something feels more like Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here; it takes the band’s sound and former success to a new level by challenging what they did previously, yet without ever losing sight of the songs.
And what a set of songs they are.