Nick Harrison is a Hoya Staff Writer.
“I can’t make you a promise,” front man James Murphy sings on “Change Yr Mind,” the fourth track on LCD Soundsystem’s fourth and newest studio album, “American Dream.” Promises have certainly been relevant to Murphy’s career: He once promised that LCD Soundsystem’s third studio album, “This Is Happening,” would be its last. The electronic rock band went on a highly publicized farewell tour in 2011.
Murphy’s decision to bring the band back several years after making such a spectacle of its retirement annoyed some fans and raised high expectations for the album, as Murphy acknowledged on the band’s website.
“It needs to be better than anything we’ve done before, in my mind, because it won’t have the help of being the first time,” he said.
Fortunately, Murphy delivered a spectacular follow-up album with “American Dream,” showing that the band’s talent has in no way diminished. The album will no doubt make listeners want to dance, and fans will appreciate Murphy’s signature witty and introspective lyrics.
LCD Soundsystem proves that songs meant for the dance floor do not have to be simple and formulaic. Murphy produces beats that initially seem straightforward, often beginning with isolated drum patterns. But the beats gain complexity as they progress and are complimented by an array of synthesizer sounds, ensuring that songs never cease to feel fresh.
This album’s songs average a length of roughly six minutes each, with the closing track, “Black Screen,” clocking in at just over 12 minutes. However, “American Dream” invites listeners to lose themselves in the music so that they will not be tempted to skip a song’s ending.
Passing time and aging are frequent themes on the album. Murphy has explored similar themes in past albums — he himself did not become famous until he reached his 30s. LCD Soundsystem’s breakthrough hit in 2002, “Losing My Edge,” dealt with Murphy having to compete with younger, seemingly cooler musicians.
Now at 47, Murphy sings about having had similar thoughts when he dissolved the band. On “Change Yr Mind,” he sings, “I’m not dangerous now / The way I used to be once.” On “other voices,” Murphy sings, “Time isn’t over, times aren’t better … Oh that shit’s a dictator / Time won’t be messed with.”
But as the album progresses, Murphy puts a positive spin on his aging. On “Tonite,” he declares, “You’re getting older / And there’s improvements unless / You’re such a winner / That the future’s a nightmare,” suggesting that he appreciates how he can achieve more even as he ages. After all, this album shows that he is definitely not past his musical prime.
The album ends with “Black Screen,” which is written as a tribute to the late British singer David Bowie. Murphy assisted with percussion for Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar,” and in “Black Screen” he describes Bowie as being “between a friend and a father” to him. Rather than being arrogant about having worked with a musical icon, Murphy recounts his insecurities about the experience: “My hands kept pushing down / In my pockets / I’m bad with people things / But I should have tried more.”
Although Murphy is not one to hide his self-doubt, he is not afraid to take risks. Bringing back LCD Soundsystem was no doubt a difficult decision. If the band’s return had been lackluster, it would likely have been immensely disappointing for fans and Murphy alike. Thankfully, “American Dream” is a captivating album that holds up to the band’s past work. Listeners are sure to be pleased with the album’s catchy and lyrically compelling tracks, as well as glad to know that the band is, at long last, back together.