If, well, pretty much every internet music news source (reliable or not) is to be believed, James Murphy is pulling the plug on his band, LCD Soundsystem, at the end of this year. Which is basically four weeks from right now. While I’ve read that Murphy may still continue doing music, it’s still a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, LCD Soundsystem released three pretty excellent albums, one of which contains one of the best songs of the 21st century so far – in other words, the world needs LCD Soundsystem’s music, or music very much like it. On the other hand, Murphy is disbanding LCD Soundsystem at the height of their powers. If he makes good on his promise, there will be no disappointing falloff in the quality of LCD albums and they will always be rightly remembered as an amazing early 21st century band that was better than all of their peers at making rock music dance-able and/or dance music rock-able, depending on where you’re coming from.
So I thought it might be nice to send James Murphy and friends off with a proper salute: I’ve compiled a list of some great LCD Soundsystem songs totaling sixty minutes of listening bliss. It’s LCD Soundsystem’s Finest Hour, in no particular order. Read on:
“Daft Punk is Playing At My House.” Any discussion of this band is apt to include this song, which opens LCD’s eponymous debut album. This might still be LCD Soundsystem’s biggest hit and, though it’s not their best song, it’s still fucking awesome. James Murphy might be the only white guy who can pull off the “ow-ow” that he so jubilantly yelps at the outset of this tune.
“No Love Lost.” This Joy Division cover appears on a split tour single LCD Soundsystem did with the Arcade Fire. I saw them for the first time on this tour. At the Hollywood Bowl. While you’re busy envying me (I also have a hot wife, if that stokes the fires of your jealousy), I just want to point out that this version of “No Love Lost” is why James Murphy is one of only two people who should be legally allowed to cover Joy Division (the other is Trent Reznor, which may seem kind of obvious. But Nine Inch Nails’ version of “Dead Souls” is badass).
“North American Scum.” The first single from Sound of Silver, “North American Scum” was the 2007 party anthem for people who felt like they had to apologize for the lameness of their nation when traveling abroad (so, “Americans”). In further testament to LCD’s awesomeness, the video for this song features an awesome magic laser fight on the fucking moon. What else do you need to know?
“All My Friends.” This is the song I was talking about earlier when I said LCD Soundsystem wrote one of the best songs of the 21st century so far. This song, also from Sound of Silver, is perfect pop and it makes a superb soundtrack to all your best memories, assuming, of course, that you have friends (sorry, Dick Cheney).
“Disco Infiltrator.” Murphy has always been able to get away with being a bit ridiculous in his songs, mostly because the music still sounds good. Case in point: “Disco Infiltrator,” from LCD Soundsystem.
“You Wanted a Hit.” Murphy thumbs his nose at the record industry, his fans, and himself, taking us past the nine minute mark before we even know what’s hit us. LCD Soundsystem had a special gift for creating long songs that didn’t piss me off. This song, from this year’s This Is Happening, is easily the best nine minute track of the year. In fact, This Is Happening probably contains the only good nine minute songs of the year.
“Movement.” LCD Soundsystem does punk. “It’s a like a culture without the effort of all of the culture,” Murphy sneers before working himself up to a shout on “You’re pillaging and I’m tapped.” One of my favorite LCD tunes, from their first record.
“Someone Great.” James Murphy does his best 80s Bowie on this track from Sound of Silver, a great tune about loss and the passage of time. What we’re losing with the end of LCD Soundsystem is a band that seamlessly blurred the lines between pop, dance, and rock.
“All I Want.” Another This Is Happening cut, the one that apes the e-bowed guitar part from David Bowie’s “Heroes.” I read a snarky review of This Is Happening that mislabeled this as “slide guitar.” But it’s an e-bow, the same as was used on Bowie’s tune. To quote DOOM, “If you’re gonna hate/ might at least get your facts straight.” Anyway, the Bowie homage isn’t really the meat of the song; “All I Want” perfectly captures the contradictory behavior people can get up to in relationships. Murphy sings about coming home to “the girl who has put up with all of your shit” and then sings, “All I want is your pity/ all I want/ is your bitter tears.” The song’s a bit of a cry for help, but it’s an awesome one.
“The Great Release” officially closes LCD Soundsystem (there’s a bonus disc with some other great tracks, including “Losing My Edge,” which some people would argue should be included in my little list here. It’s a good song and, if I were going over sixty minutes with this list, I would include it) and it’s a very slow building song that ambles toward a climax on the line, “Something dying/ will be a great release.” This song also happens to be, in my estimation, the most unabashedly beautiful song in the LCD Soundsystem canon. I’ve heard that, if you live a good life, as you die and go toward the light or whatever, you hear “The Great Release.” That may not be true, but that’s what I heard.
So that’s an hour’s worth of my favorite LCD Soundsystem tunes, although you’d be hard pressed to find bad tracks on any of their three albums. As I said before, LCD Soundsystem is stopping in their prime. If you have a minute on New Year’s Eve this year, maybe use it to raise your glass to James Murphy and his excellent band – I hope more than anything that, whatever he does next, Murphy tackles it with the humor and intelligence he brought to LCD Soundsystem. So long, Mr. Murphy, and thanks for
all the fish the great music!