Wednesday 22 May 2024

10 from LCD Soundsystem

LCD Soundsystem are one of the few post 2000 bands that I really fell in love with. My love was rekindled after watching the excellent Meet Me In The Bathroom documentary based on the 2011 book by Lizzy Godman. This was at the end of 2023, so this blog has been a while in the making!

James Murphy comes across well in the film. A self confessed music geek whose musical boundaries were smashed when he worked as an engineer on David Holmes Bow Down To The Exit Sign in 2000. Holmes was amazed that Murphy had never tried ecstasy and when James finally did, he had an experience that changed the way he listened to and felt about music.

Things moved swiftly as Murphy formed DFA Records with Tim Goldsworthy who co-produced the Holmes album. The duo started releasing records, including The Rapture's seminal House Of The Jealous Lovers, and they put on nights across New York as the city came out of post 9/11 mourning. 

LCD Soundsystem's first single was the sensational Losing My Edge which came out in the summer of 2002. The video, with Murphy singing into the camera with a spotlight behind him and someone routinely slapping him quickly gained traction. The song and video (see below) were super cool, like nothing else out there.

Murphy talks about the inspiration behind the song in the film. How he was worried that all the cool kids could suddenly access all the music online that he spent years discovering and collecting. The 8-minute electro punk tune created enough of an impression for booking requests to come through. LCD Soundsystem suddenly became a real band. 

The 2002-2005 early period of LCD Soundsystem was extraordinarily prolific as Murphy dove headfirst into ecstasy and creating electronic music, releasing a string of singles that led to a double album coming out in early 2005. 

I first caught the band around this time when they supported Too Many DJ's at the Barrowland. LCD had a bank of equipment, loads of percussion and cowbells and Murphy sang into an old crooners style microphone. They were electrifying.

That summer my girlfriend (now wife) and I went to the Benicassim Festival in Spain. LCD Soundsystem came on stage around 2 or 3 in the morning and the place went crazy. It remains one of my all-time favourite festival sets; a band breaking through from the underground playing a late night set to a party crowd. Check this electrifying 52 second crowd footage.

Murphy and LCD kept creating, releasing, playing and partying. Something had to give and it did in 2010 following the release of the This Is Happening album. Murphy said it would be the bands last album and that their last show would be at Madison Square Garden, where the band played an epic 4-hour set.

In some ways it was perfect. 10-years on from working on the Holmes album. Murphy talked of writing songs as good as he was going to and not wanting to carry on with the purpose of becoming bigger, or to earn more money. In other interviews, Murphy hinted that he might go back to creating music and releasing 12-inch singles, but he had to get away from LCD being so large.

Rather incredibly, David Bowie was one of the people to encourage Murphy to get the band back together. James played on Bowie's Blackstar album. The comeback grew arms and legs and before LCD knew it,they were once again travelling round the world to promote an album - 2017's American Dream.

Now, in 2024, LCD Soundsystem are kind of operating on their terms. Tours have been replaced with residencies in their favourite cities and the band can pick and choose what festivals they want to play. Surely there will be a Barrowland residency at some point?! Murphy has always been quick to acknowledge the importance of the venue, Glasgow as a city and the Subclub.

LCD Soundsystem play Glastonbury and All Points East in London this summer. 

UPDATE - LCD Soundsystem now play the Barrowland and tickets are on sale this Friday - 24th May!

Anyway, I've gone off on a tangent. Watching Meet Me In The Bathroom caused me to go down a rabbit hole and I thought I would write a blog on 10 of my favourite songs by LCD Soundsystem. OK 11 - I;ve included both versions of Yeah!

I've finally finished the blog and I've compiled the songs into a playlist that you can check HERE

At the time of writing, I chose;

1. Losing My Edge

I blogged on Losing My Edge for my Trust Me series back in April 2022 (read here) and declared that everything about this song is cool, clever and funny. A paranoid Murphy wonders if he is losing his edge to kids from London, Berlin, France and Tokyo. I love the way the song veers off to the glorious you don't know what you really want hook at the end. One of the best debut singles of all-time.

Check the incredible performance from their debut show at Trash in London in 2002. Jammed and rammed together on a tiny stage, creating a brilliant vibe and sound.

2. Great Release

Murphy strips things back to a drum machine and big gospel house piano notes before coming in with potentially his best vocal - wracked with emotion. 

Official audio

Live on Austin City Limits

3. Yeah (Crass version) + (Yeah Pretentious Version)

OK I'm cheating, I've included both versions of Yeah. Originally released as a 12-inch single in January 2004, both versions made it on to CD version of the bands debut album. Outrageous electronic excellence.

Yeah (Crass version) live in Brussells 2010

Yeah (Pretentious version)

4. Us v Them

Us v Them was a real highlight from the Sound of Silver tour when I caught them at the Barrowland. Thinking back, it was monsterous. This could be LCD Soundsystem's most powerful song, it builds into a mantra; us and them, over and over again ...

You were on Murphy's side for sure. Fantastic use of cowbell and just listen to the little riff going on in the background around 6-minutes over the scratchy Chic punk guitar riff.

Live at Madison Square Garden

5. All My Friends

To my ears, in my mind and in my heart, this is an absolutely perfect song. All My Friends gives me all the feels ... the long 82-second intro with Murphy reminiscing about going back to someone's house to check the charts - pop or astrological? I've always thought pop.

And now I wonder if Murphy is reminiscing? Or is he talking about checking to see where LCD are in the charts? As he then goes on to talk about partying, ageing, touring, giving it his all and questioning if he wants to keep it going.

To tell the truth

This could be the last time

And in the end Murphy is ranting and questioning himself - where are you friends tonight?

He goes on and you're left in no doubt that he wants to be home to see his friends.

One of LCD's most melodic songs that builds and builds over a repetitive riff. Also contains one of my favourite lines that always makes me think of Glasgow/Scotland.

If you're worried about the weather

Then you picked the wrong place to stay

6. Someone Great

Electronic soul. Possibly the best song Murphy has composed and written. The electronic symphony drips with emotion, the bass synth in particular, while all kinds of gorgeous noises and beeps play over the top. 

I wish that we could talk about it

But then that's the problem

Murphy starts to pour his heart out and bare his soul, with his vocal melody just about matched to an xylophone, ending the first verse by singing I miss the way we used to argue.

This is a very different LCD Soundsystem, Murphy is singing about a break up and it's heartbreakingly beautiful; to tell the truth I saw it coming, the way that you were breathing

Is it a break up, or is it loss? It could be either. When Murphy sings when someone great is gone you really feel his grief.

Official video

Austin City Limits

7. I Can Change

Murphy aims straight for our hearts again and scores a bullseye with this gem. Urging his lover to never change, never change, this is why I fell in love and then going on to say promise I can change, I can change if it helps you fall in love.

No bullshit, this is love, warts and all. It's not perfect, but it is love. Murphy is in for the long haul.

Live at T In The Park (2016)

8. 45:33

Part 1 - Intro
Part 2 - You Can't Hide/Shame On You
Part 3 - Someone Great (instrumemtal)
Part 4 - Out In Space
Part 5 - Ships Talking
Part 6 - Outro

Following the release of their debut album, LCD Soundsystem then teamed up with Nike to record 45:33, seemingly designed to soundtrack jogging workouts. Regardless of the origins, the concept allowed Murphy to work his magic across 45-minutes, even longer than his usual 8 or 9 minutes per track.

A continuous piece of music, it was composed in 6 parts with part 2 being the outstanding You Can't Hide/Shame On You that is one of many highlights on the The Long Goodbye (Madison Square Garden) live album. What a tune! Riding in on house piano chords over a what sounds like a synth being tuned, the song develops into a huge vocal anthem, the kind you can sing-a-long to on first listen. The kind of song that causes a dance floor to erupt as people punch the air, dance and sing. Super cool.

It's also worth noting that Someone Great first appeared as part 3 in instrumental form and it sounds blissful, developing into part 4, an electro funk workout with some Stevie Wonder influenced sounds over slowed down vocals. We're way into the mix, way into the trip now and it is magical. Or well into the jog/run!

Disco diva vocals come in, give me love, before Murphy's slowed down voice comes back in, super trippy synths are layered over the constant disco electro groove, then everything cuts back to the groove before the female vocal comes back in, singing your'e out in space, you need some loooooovvvveee. Sublime!

Horns kick in for as the groove turns to a funky bass and then a breakdown, before things finally lead to part 5 and it's quite a change in pace as I feel like I'm transported to Optimo.

There is another change in pace for part 6 - the warmdown part of the jog/run, the comedown part of the nigh out/trip. Beautiful!

Official audio

9. Home

Murphy employs all his favourite tricks on Home, which closes the This Is Happening album. False start, immediate cool groove, quickly adding layers of synth including a delicious bubbling sound, percussion coming to the fore ... then Murphy comes in singing Home before going off on one.

Official audio

10. Oh Baby

This gives me all the feels. Bubbling synths, cool beats, a stronger bass synth riff over the top, Murphy crooning oh baby, you're having a bad dream, here in my arms.

Live on Austin City Limits

Official video

No comments: