‘American Dream’s’ final track ‘Black Screen’ is meant to be a homage to David Bowie. (Courtesy of DFA Studios)
James Murphy, front-man of rock band LCD Soundsystem, said he has been obsessed with making grand statements and being lauded since as late as 2002 when he and his band released the dance-punk single “Losing My Edge.” This is about him not being ahead of the curve for DJ-ing with hip music. This debut single for the band also showcases LCD Soundsystem’s penchant for referencing other bands and their works of music, and both traits can be found throughout LCD Soundsystem’s newest album, “American Dream.”
The album opens with the track “Oh Baby” churning on a high-pitched note hammered at a constant tempo, and shortly accompanied by some synthesized bass. With the song’s progression, lyrics and harmony, it alludes to an older song by the avant-garde band Suicide— “Dream Baby Dream.”
Toward the opener’s conclusion, Murphy even calls back to one of his older songs, “Someone Great,” with a similar melody and lyric. Regarding sound quality, it is great; however, the rest of its words lack any good substance to push it into the echelon LCD Soundsystem’s greatest works.
Another track that stands out is the nine-minute centerpiece “How Do You Sleep?” For the first half of it, the synth leads and bass are the only things put at the forefront while the wailing of Murphy’s words can only be made out in the background. There is excellent build-up to the onslaught of their signature wavy synth sound, which starts halfway through the song. Thematically, the lyrics tie into the production as he sings about an old producer friend of his and their falling out.
Another example of homage to older music would be when he repeats the lines, “One step forward and six steps back,” in this song, akin to Gang of Four’s post-punk jam “At Home He’s a Tourist.”
Typically, LCD Soundsystem will try throwing at least a few heart-wrenching crowd pleasers onto to their albums, and for “American Dream” it is the lead single “Call The Police.” It starts with synth chords listeners would not be surprised to find in a pseudo-nationalistic ‘80s tune, and then it brings in the chugging rhythm guitar that holds listeners’ attention well—that is, until the nearly-greatest lead guitar part they have ever written comes in to help finish off the verse.
The switches from verse and chorus hold the song over well, but when it finally reaches the coda, it is too underwhelming. And that stems from what is the album’s biggest faltering point: lyrical content.
James Murphy seems to see himself as the signaler of virtue. “Call The Police” is a song all about the modern political climate, how our country is divided and love being the means that will help us grow as a society. But then he finishes by shouting “Call the police” several times in a manner that really is not within context of the song.
In “Other Voices,” he seems to be talking down to his listeners, calling them babies and pushovers for people who espouse politics with conviction. “Emotional Haircut” is about how people with zany hair do so to stand out and thus are more capable of allowing themselves to feel good.
In the past, LCD Soundsystem has produced amazing songs with lyrics that seem universal, yet feel so personal at the same time. However, now they are singing more about contemporary social dichotomies. Their gripes are not inherently bad; they just do nor do it in a sophisticated manner, making it come off somewhat arrogant.
People who were fans of LCD Soundsystem in the past and liked them for their musical stylings, overall they will like this album. But people who really crave the band for their emotional intuition and their ability to hone in on the deepest of feelings will mostly be left disappointed.