Sunday, December 5, 2010

THIS IS HAPPENING - LCD Soundsystem (2010)

Well, if this truly is LCD Soundsystem's last studio album, as both the band's creative mastermind James Murphy and the album's own CD text attest, then all I can say is...what a great way to go out.

This Is Happening may not be as quite as good as 2007s Sound of Silver, one of the definitive albums of the 'Aughts, but it is damn close, and what it may lack in sheer iconicness, it more than makes up for with some pricklier but way-cool instrumental touches, an even sharper sense of humor, and a stunningly self-assured sense of pace and progression. 

Seriously folks, despite being composed almost entirely of six-minute-plus songs, this one really moves.  It might be the shortest feeling hour-long album I have ever heard.

As for the actual songs, with one major and one minor quibble, they're another fabulously consistent batch, hitting many of the same dance-rock sweet spots as cuts on the previous albums.  Drunk Girls, a synth and lyrical reworking of The Velvet Underground's White Light, White Heat, claims the album's high-energy, high-laughs Daft Punk Is Playing At My House/North American Scum spot, I Can Change the Someone Great John Hughes soundtrack heart-wrencher, One Touch and Pow Pow the Us Vs. Them/Tribulations extended ass-shakers, and so on and so on. 

As always, the spectre of past influences is omnipresent and a big part of the fun.  All I Want couldn't be a more obvious lift of the guitar riff from David Bowie's Heroes, album closer and best track Home would feel right at home on The Talking Heads Little Creatures, and the Smashing Pumpkin's 1979 gets a slight nod in the vocal manipulations of You Wanted A Hit.  But no matter how blatant the thievery, one of Murphy's greatest strengths has always been his ability to create familiarity by clearly referencing works of the past, but still somehow make it his own, and he remains up to the task here.

I really only have two complaints with this album, the whiny lyrics to the otherwise excellent You Wanted A Hit (I'll accept a song from Nirvana or Captain Beefheart complaining about record company interference...but from a band as fundamentally accessible as LCD...even if anchored in actual experience, I just don't buy it), and the intentionally hard-to-like track Somebody's Calling Me, which unfortunately, succeeds a little too well.

But otherwise, this is just a fantastic, wonderfully confident and sure-of-itself album.  You've got to like analog synths and extended tracks to enjoy it, but if you can cross those two low hurdles, prepare yourself for sixty minutes of nearly unmitigated dance-rock bliss.

Status: Highest Recommend.

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: Dance Yrself Clean, Drunk Girls, All I Want, Home.

Here's the bizarre official video for Drunk Girls, featuring Murphy, principal collaborators Nancy Whang and Pat Mahoney, and an army of mutant pandas.

Component Breakdown:
3. One Touch - 9
4. All I Want - 9
7. Pow Pow - 9
9. Home - 10
Intangibles - High

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What were your impressions of This Is Happening? Let readers know in the comments section below.

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