LCD Soundsystem is a textbook example of a band who has found unlikely music super-stardom. Nothing about the group and their rise to glory has been traditional in the slightest. The songs themselves, often 6 or 7 minutes in length, alternate between electronic, riff-driven dance and noisy punk rock. Their blend of music won’t be found on (non-Sirius) radio stations – pop, alternative or otherwise. James Murphy, the lead singer and creative catalyst for the group, looks more like an 8th grade English teacher than the front man for a rock band. And in 2011, the group announced it would be playing its last show in Madison Square Garden after a prolific 10-year run, only to reunite to headline several major festivals and release an incredible new album just a few years later. LCD Soundsystem has never done things the way they are “supposed” to, and that’s exactly what makes them one of the best bands in the world.
James Murphy, for better or for worse, has always been a man with a plan. As detailed in Lizzy Goodman’s terrific book about the NYC music scene in the early 2000s, Meet Me in the Bathroom (a must read for lovers of fans of LCDSS, The Strokes, The Killers, and music in general), Murphy grew up in suburban New Jersey and quickly became involved playing in bands around NYC during his formative years. However, he always found greater solace in the recording studio. Having a profound knowledge of music and a willingness to experiment with obscure sounds and genres allowed him to become an expert producer. He eventually co-created dance-centric DFA Records, and immediately began acting as the de facto leader for the label. While Murphy certainly knew his way around a production board, his aggressive and domineering nature made it hard collaborators to adhere to his ambitions quirks and visions. Therefore, he took matters into his own hands and created the band we see today.
I had the pleasure of seeing LCD Soundsystem for the third time Tuesday night, a scintillating 2-hour performance at the sold-out Aragon Ballroom. The band, tight and connected as ever, blasted through jam after jam with abundant energy to match their technical precision. The octet (that would be an 8-person band, for anyone keeping tabs at home) is comprised of various guitarists, keyboard players and percussionists. The band members are also known to frequently DJ after-show parties, using skills learned from years of toiling around the underground NYC club scene. What never ceases to amaze me at their shows is the superb production value. When I saw them at Bonnaroo/Lollapalooza a couple summers ago, I was awed by the lighting and stage set-ups. Last night was no different – take a look below to see the impressive display during fan-favorite “Dance Yrself Clean.” Also note the EXPERT camera work, shot by yours truly…
I’m not breaking new ground here by praising these guys, they are all over most “Best Album of the Decade” lists and have been nominated for multiple Grammys as well. Murphy & crew are trailblazers, laying the groundwork for bands like Arcade Fire, Gorillaz and countless others. It’s also just refreshing to know that there are still groups out there with unique ideas who also care about putting on good shows for fans. LCD Soundsystem embodies that raw, energetic NYC spirit found in older Big Apple predecessors like the Talking Heads. While it might take a while to “get it” with LCD Soundsystem, I promise the payoff is well worth it. Give them a shot, tough it out. You’ll be happy you did.
LCD Soundsystem is currently on tour, including 10 consecutive shows at Brooklyn Steel in Brooklyn, NY. Find all the dates here.
Suggested Tracks: “I Can Change” “Oh Baby” “Tribulations” “Dance Yrself Clean”
Oddities: James Murphy has produced songs for Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Rapture, among others.
Photo Credits – Rolling Stone, NME