Friday, March 23, 2007

LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver (DFA/Capitol)

Remember when disco sucked? There was a time when no self-respecting rockist would dare acknowledge any sounds directed at a dance floor. Drum machines were considered pure evil, and not in that cool, devil-horns Black Sabbath kind of way. It was serious business; Queen lost legions of American fans for writing “Another One Bites The Dust,” and KISS was crucified for “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.” LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy definitely remembers thinking disco sucked. And he’s very, very sorry.

There’s a particular liberation at the heart of Sound of Silver, the result of Murphy and his merry band of post-punk-funk disco infiltrators fully realized. It’s the sound of someone who didn’t discover the power and glory inherent in dance music’s finest moments until just recently. It’s the sound of someone taking E for the first time in their late 20s and hearing a Carl Craig record from the mid-’90s and having a genuine epiphany. When the tyranny of the beat strikes back, it’s one harsh mistress.

All reasons why Sound of Silver is the best dance record for people that don’t like dance music in years. Where LCD’s eponymous debut felt oddly restrained, as if Murphy was too self-conscious to really fly his freak flag (and was totally outshined by the bonus disc of his own formative singles), SOS is a sweaty, uninhibited shimmy and shake, like the drunken wallflower dancing like a fiend all by himself in the middle of the floor and going home with the hottest girl in the room.

Like any self-respecting music geek worth his 12-inch collection, Murphy’s reference points are both astute and a little obvious. He makes quantum leaps on the aptly-titled opening number, “Get Innocuous,” referencing a wide sonic swath that includes Lodger-era Bowie, Kraftwerk, and even his own music snob-baiting early single, “Losing My Edge,” in just over seven propulsive minutes. “Time to Get Away” rides a snotty, Jonathan Richman with a cool kid swagger attitude and gratuitous cowbell beats, while sure-shot single “North American Scum” turns the self-loathing hipster stance into a Jesus Christ pose and makes it sound like the best party ever. The jumpy, piano-powered “All My Friends” is the most majestic moment LCD’s committed to software yet, a slow-burning crescendo that crashes with the force of Arcade Fire at their most epic.

After a dubious but effective take on funky Gang of Four (the title track), Sound of Silver ends on an oddly earnest ode to Murphy’s home city with the wobbly ballad “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” like he’s the Morrissey of Brooklyn or something. Oh Williamsburg, so much to answer for…

(An abridged version of this review was published in the LA Weekly, 3/07)