Sunday, June 27, 2010

Album Review: LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening (2.5/5)

It's possible I just don't get LCD Soundsystem. The group, led by producer/DJ James Murphy, has put out three very acclaimed albums, none of which have seized my ears and demanded my love. It's said that This Is Happening will be their last work, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

LCD Soundsystem's music has been characterized as "dance funk," and this album's tracks alternate between being more heavily electronic or more heavily rock-oriented. "Dance Yrself Clean" starts sparsely with a few light beats, horn blasts (likely synthesized), and some quiet vocals. It goes on like this for quite awhile before the volume and other instruments jump in for what sounds like the song proper. When it gets going, it's good electronic pop, but it takes about 3 minutes to get there (and the whole piece is quite long at almost 9 minutes). "Drunk Girls," the album's shortest track at under 4 minutes, feels like a college party, with goofy lyrical delivery about drunk girls vs. drunk boys. It's followed by another electronic number, "One Touch," which to me epitomizes this group's sound: heavily repetitive, with an emphasis on the transformation of musical layers.

"All I Want" then is back to rock. It's electric guitar and piano melody reminds me of The Strokes, if the The Strokes were to draw a song out over 7 minutes. At points it has some interesting melody, like when the keyboards first come in prominently, but later it gets to be a overly cacophonous. "I Can Change" draws some inspiration from '80s new wave, stringing in some synthesizers into the beat mix. I'm generally a fan of the new wave sound, so this is another plus.

"You Wanted a Hit" is more of the layering/changing sound. At over 9 minutes, it's the longest track. Once the vocals kick in, it responds to naysayers: "You wanted a hit, but that's not what we do." While the implication is that he's responding to a record company, I feel like's he's talking to me too. I find the song generally uninteresting until the keyboards come in at the end. That's a general gripe I have with this act--frequently the melodies are too sparse for me, appearing here and there but not coalescing over the whole of a track.

I find the last third of the album particularly unsatisfying. "Pow Pow" is rather annoying. Again, it's little more than a combination of electronic and acoustic beats with spoken-word delivery that has nothing of interest to say. "Somebody's Calling Me" sticks a piano into the mix, but plods along for 7 minutes without using it to much effect until a brief solo 4 minutes in. "Home" is better, having enough instruments to create some warmth.

I've read that you have to listen to LCD Soundsystem songs over and over for them to really sink in. I've listened to this quite a bit over the last few weeks, and it's not working. I do like the first track, and there are bits and pieces here and there that are enjoyable, but overall, it's not my cup of tea.

Best: Dance Yrself Clean, I Can Change

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