In the 1970s, disco ate up blues-based rock‘n’roll as the dominant genre of youth music because rock‘n’roll forgot how to move its hips when The Rolling Stones went rotten. Punk rock destroyed disco because it was too lifeless and because disco sucked. Hair metal destroyed punk because, apparently, there is no God. In the 1990s, rock‘n’roll adopted punk because hair metal only appealed to derelicts and The Darkness. And then 2000 hit and punk rock had to turn to disco because rock‘n’roll was too lifeless.
For the last half-decade or so, James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy have been shaping underground dance-punk on their insufferably hip label DFA. They’ve taken a hip-hop approach to rock, remixing tracks and providing beats for groups as diverse as free-form noise detonators Black Dice and, most famously, for funk-punkers The Rapture. Murphy has been releasing singles with LCD Soundsystem since 2002. Their debut track, “Losing My Edge,” simultaneously took hipsters to town for their obscure taste and became a smash-hit track for these very same fans in obscure dance clubs.
LCD Soundsystem marks the band’s first full-length album. It comes packaged with a second disc of the band’s first six singles, a noble gesture, given that they could’ve sold this compilation separately and made a killing. The formula is simple: jackknife rhythms, plenty of keyboards and Murphy’s detached shouts. The songs all start slowly, with just a drum machine and Murphy’s distanced melodrama. The tracks build marvelously, however, and by the end of their frequently long runtimes, it’s an orgy of cowbells, shameless four-on-the-floor basslines and dense, layered beats.
“Daft Punk is Playing at My House” kicks things off with an excitable Murphy laying out, literally, the preparations before the Daft Punk show … at his house. It’s not as humorous or interesting as the title suggests, but it does provide the prototype for the rest of the disc. “Movement” is the album’s shortest song, and its straight-ahead fuzz bass and handclaps lend it a unique immediacy. The title of “Disco Infiltrator” is a more fitting summation of the song’s sound than anyone should be comfortable with, but the album’s meanest melody saves it. “Never as Tired as When I’m Waking Up” is the album’s glammy rock song, and its placement in the middle of the album necessarily breaks up the dance-oriented material around it. “Great Release” is a near-epiphany at the end of the record, a Brian Eno-esque rock song that, after 45 minutes of disco beats, is more concerned with blowing minds than shaking asses.
The high score earned here, though, centers as much around the singles disc as it does the album. Despite the fact that no one really needs 20 minutes of LCD’s most inane single, “Yeah,” the disc is a flawless compendium of their formative songs. LCD owes a huge debt to any early ’80s punk band with a dance bend, but that’s hardly the point. LCD aren’t trying to break any barriers, just to shuffle some sneakers.
LCD is walking a fine line here. They’re making dance music that mocks elitists and hipsters but is idiosyncratic and “weird” enough to appeal to no one but those people. They are, for all intents and purposes, an underground band running around with shit-eating grins and semi-ironic “fuck the underground” T-shirts.
In some ways, Murphy has made great strides: His work with the Neptunes was applauded by indie-rock fans everywhere, and the fact that this album is being distributed by mega-label Capitol records has received precious little attention. LCD’s debut is bulging with enough glittering, climactic ass-shakers to dissipate any remaining doubts. It’s enough to think that in two decades, when this ridiculous pop-music cycle comes back around again, some underground-hating underground rock fan will name a song “LCD Soundsystem is Playing at My House.”
Music Review: 4 out of 5 stars