LCD Soundsystem: “american dream” Album Review

Written By: Ethan Griggs

My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com

Originality:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Vocals/Flow:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Lyrics:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Production:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Average:4.8 Stars (4.8 / 5)

James Murphy can run, but he can’t hide. Even he himself couldn’t stand a world without any new music from LCD Soundsystem. So, nearly six years after what were billed as the group’s epic final performances, he’s reunited the gang and released what many people are now calling their greatest album. Simply put, american dream is James Murphy at his most versatile and vulnerable – it’s a magnificent record about resistance, romance, and reality. 

One of the most immediately striking elements of the record is how organic it sounds in its fundamental structure. Murphy has always experimented with sonics and textures, but the stuff he presents on american dream is ambitious even by LCD Soundsystem standards. The influence of David Byrne and Talking Heads and their pivotal Remain In Light album are all over the record, specifically on the urgent, searing “other voices” and the polyrhythmic, almost atonal “change yr mind”. A totally fuzzed out lead guitar tears through both tracks with incredibly sharp teeth. The urgent and rigid “Emotional Haircut” is a nod to the fundamental post-punk bands like Joy Division and Wire. 

It becomes apparent pretty quickly that this is LCD Soundsystem at their most rocking, but that idea is completely cemented once the thundering “call the police” hits the listener. Playing like some of the earlier work from Clap Yr Hands Say Yeah!, this song is straight up indie rock, nothing else – none of the fancy decorations that flood many of the other tracks on the record, just Murphy and the gang rocking out in a way that keeps the faith of their influences. The song also boasts one of the album’s best lyrics: “And we don’t waste time with love/It’s just death from above”.

Another undeniable influence on the album is that of U2. Murphy sounds so alike to Bono on some of the tracks that you almost forget it’s not actually him. These vocal acrobatics are best represented on the dark and eerie “i used to” as well as the slow burning “how do you sleep?”, which closes the first disc of the album’s 2-LP vinyl edition. (That being said – at over an hour long american dream plays like a classic double-album from the 70’s or the 80’s, reminding the listener of recent double-length endeavors like Random Access Memories and Reflektor.)

Longtime fans need not worry, however. There’s still plenty of the original sound of the group to go around. The album’s centerpiece, the Bowie-indebted “tonite”, is one of its obvious and best dance tracks. The album opener “oh baby” juxtaposes the group’s classic aesthetic with an emoting yet subtle performance by Murphy. On the stunning title track, brooding synthesizers swirl around Murphy as he sings, “Wake up with somebody near you/And at somebody else’s place/You took acid and looked in the mirror/Watched the beard crawl around on your face”. The album’s closer and longest track, “black screen”, reads like a strange ode to humanity’s rapid technological advancement.

I’ve always had trouble in trying to define exactly what type of band LCD Soundsystem is, and american dream certainly doesn’t help in narrowing down the categories. Regardless of labels, though, the album proves that LCD Soundsystem is one of the great American bands of the new millennium. You will definitely be seeing this album in the top tiers of many 2017 “best of” lists.

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