LCD Soundsystem's Self-Titled Debut at 10: Classic Track-by-Track Album Review
LCD Soundsystem split in 2011, and if bandleader James Murphy keeps his word, that won't be chaining any time soon. If they never play another show, they've left a legacy few bands can touch. They never had any true hits, but they produced three top-notch, critically acclaimed albums and a host of killer singles while hardly ever falling below "damn good" territory. A sold-out farewell show at Madison Square Garden (and four more at New York's Terminal 5) doesn't hurt the legacy, either.
It's hard to pinpoint LCD's breakout to a specific date, since their ascension was marked by a sequence of statement-making singles ("Losing My Edge," "Beat Connection," "Yeah"). But once they did drop a proper full-length -- which just so happened to be 10 years ago today -- LCD, Murphy, and his trendsetting New York label DFA proved they could play the album game, too. For now, stop pining for an LCD reunion and join us on this track-by-track retrospective on their self-titled debut.
Tracks 10 through 16 on the Spotify player were the band's pre-album singles, collected on a bonus disc. They weren't part of the proper album, but go ahead and enjoy those too. We're pretty sure James still hasn't lost his edge.
"Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" - This is the LCD Soundsystem mission statement. It wasn't the first LCD song James Murphy wrote, but it might as well have announced the project.
On the actual debut single -- 2002's "Losing My Edge" -- Murphy jokingly takes the role of the jaded scenester and asserts he was the "first guy playing Daft Punk to the rock kids" (at CBGB's, no less) and how "everyone thought it was crazy." Here, he turns that line into a full-blown fantasy, about suburban kids who raise thousands to fly out the robots for a basement set, presumably with some local hardcore band opening. Like Daft Punk, it's hard to tell if it's pop via dance music or dance music via pop, but does it even matter?
"Too Much Love" - We take a sharp left turn from the giddiness of "Daft Punk" with this dissonant second act and learn that Murphy is hitting us with that old album flow, not just a collection of singles. Over a steamy acid house beat, Murphy laments his mid-30s and not being able to party like he used to. "Daft Punk" was the opening high; this is the come-down.
"Tribulations" - But really, the party is just getting started. "Tribulations" rivals "Daft Punk" as the album's biggest banger, based around a pulsating synth line that first leads thumping verses into subdued choruses. But after a little British Invasion-y guitar solo in the bridge, the final chorus just plain explodes with Murphy shouting the refrain. "Get your payments from the nation for your trials and tribulations," he asserts, apparently linking verses about sex to a chorus about federal tax returns and social welfare.
"Movement" - LCD Soundsystem didn't set out to melt faces, but for half a song, they did just that, with one of the filthiest guitar solos this side of Thee Oh Sees and Diarrhea Planet you'll ever hear. A minute of rhythmic blurps and synth claps explode into one of LCD's most out-of-character, yet finest moments.
"Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up" - After "Movement" cools down, it's here when you realize just how wide the scope of Murphy's ambition is. This track sounds a lot like a later Beatles song, with the psychedelic creep of a Sgt. Pepper track and Murphy trying to hit the high notes.
"On Repeat" - "On Repeat" follows a familiar LCD formula: starting with a sparse, skeletal synth beat, and laying on the production toppings as the song marches forward over a healthy eight minutes. As Murphy wails about pop radio and rich kids, he lets LCD Soundsystem's longest song surge to life. It doesn't stand out in the band's catalog (it's a close cousin of Sound of Silver's "Get Innocuous" and a host of This Is Happening tracks) but it's a sound showing of what they did quite well.
"Thrills" - This is the most left field experimentation you'll find on the album -- a sweaty, distorted sort of Timbaland-gone post punk jab that finds Murphy murmuring in his hedonistic night life alter ego.
"Disco Infiltrator" - Here, Murphy pulls from the buoyant energy of "Tribulations" and crafts another uptempo dance punk jam with influence from all over the DFA influence spectrum. The sonic highlight is the high-pitched gurgle of an ascending synth bubble that ties in the tight disco beat, the cowbell, and the stabs of synthesizer. With his genre-hopping tendencies, Murphy pretty much was the "Disco Infiltrator," anyway.
"Great Release" - This hazy slow-burner is like one of LCD Soundsystem's dance punk bangers melted down to a slower bpm. It's the soundtrack to Murphy riding off into the sunset, only the sun is a disco ball, and it would probably make more sense for it to be the moon going away as night fades into morning. The nine-track album fades into the background, as the last note slowly fades out over the final minute.