Past a certain age, it just doesn't seem dignified to listen to dance music anymore, let alone make the stuff. It reeks of one's youth sweaty nights out and hazy, hungover mornings. That certainly hasn't stopped James Murphy, a 40-year-old record producer and musician who, under the moniker LCD Soundsystem, has released three of this young century's most groove-filled and witty albums. By combining undeniably catchy beats with lyrics about regret, coolness and nostalgia, Murphy has hit on a formula that appeals both to 20-somethings who just want to lose their bodies to the music and to their more dignified elders who are beginning to realize they won't be able to do the same for much longer.
On This Is Happening, LCD Soundsystem's follow-up to 2007's critically beloved Sound of Silver, Murphy (who records as a one-man band and picks up about half a dozen musicians for live shows) again finds his musical sweet spot at the intersection of a trio of genres. "If I'm on an airplane and I meet a lady and she says, 'What do you do?' I say I'm in a band," says Murphy, reached on tour in Luxembourg, where he was nursing a miserable bronchial infection. "And if she says, 'What kind of music do you make?' I'll say, 'It's pop music, it's kind of dance music, and it's kind of like punk rock.' That's usually how I describe it."
Yet despite the genre-blending, body-rocking qualities of each song on This Is Happening from the completely ridiculous rocker "Drunk Girls" to the muted new wave of "I Can Change" (whose synth lines sound more '80s-esque than any other song's since the actual 1980s) the album as a whole remains elegiac. On the track "Dance Yrself Clean," Murphy wails, "I miss the way the night goes/ With friends who always make it feel good." And it's no coincidence that two of the best songs here, "All I Want" and "Home," feature a repeated plea to "take me home." Much as in Sound of Silver's "All My Friends" easily the most poignant rock song of the aughts there is an acceptance of the fact that all good times must come to an end and that sometimes home is the best place to be.
He feigned retirement after his last album, but Murphy swears that this is the proper end of LCD Soundsystem. There's just too much else to get around to doing. "Making records over and over again is not the most desirable thing to do unless you started a successful band at 22 and just don't know what else to do," he says. "One day, you're going to die, and you want to do as much as you can before then. I want to stay home, garden, see people, cook, read more, write a book, watch movies. There's a million things to do." If those aspirations sound somewhat middle-aged, so be it.