Something happened in between James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem and Sound of Silver. My hunch, and the age-specific lyrics of “Watch The Tapes” appear to back me up, is that I listened to many of the singles that made up the first album’s true muscle (i.e. the collected early singles on the bonus disc, including “Losing My Edge”) on the winning side of age 25, and now meet his latest work as a waning twentysomething, becoming wearily cognizant of the “get out of jail free” card that is generational angst. A few years ago, LCD Soundsystem seemed a refreshingly synthetic conceit in lo-fi drag during pounding non-songs like “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.” With one major exception, all of Sound of Silver continues in exactly the same vein—a live drum set approximating Thunderpuss four-on-the-floor, rhythm guitar lines like back when The Clash could still knock boots with Johnny Hammond in a Loft DJ set, Murphy belting his sparse hooks with the sort of gusto that lets you know he doesn’t mean a word. The actual songwriting may even be better this time around, complete with what sounds like cunning musical quotes of Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” and The Winners’ “Get Ready For The Future.”
Which makes it all the more disappointing that the album, as it flees further and further from the propulsive funk of “Get Innocuous” until ending in the self-righteous, passive-aggressive bile of “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” seems intent on fleeing from the Sound Of Sincerity. Why is it that every techy hybrid act can’t find it in themselves to trust the stalwart reliables—the 808 or the Moog? Why do they instead opt for the transparent, forced stunt instrumentation that results in interludes punctuated with Fisher Price xylophone (which, in this case, sabotage what might’ve been the album’s warmest, most enveloping cut, “Someone Great”)? Murphy’s willfully pretentious métier, his intentionally inadequate lyrics, and his monotonous sequencing expose a genuine fear of dance. Far from bringing dance music to audiences that might not otherwise appreciate it, LCD Soundsystem is the perfect soundtrack for anyone afraid someone out there might have a genuine emotional investment in “stupid music.”
Great dance music is almost always blithely ignorant of irony. The only thing more incessant than the bass kick bounce is its unchecked sensualism, and no rattled-off list of bitch house classics is going to put a chink in the collective good vibes of Deee-Lite, Nuyorican Soul, and an entire chapel of gospel house. “Love Is The Message,” remember? So the old gray club ain’t what she used to be. Buck up. As Prince sang in “1999,” “we could all die any day,” and making air quotes with your fingers looks pretty ridiculous out there on the dance floor…at any age.