I already know all of these songs. Everyone knows these songs. “House of Jealous Lovers” was the summer anthem of 2002, 2003, and probably will be still in 2019. To gauge its popularity one need only know that Bez of the Happy Mondays joined the Rapture on stage at Reading when they played it. The eight songs on DFA Compilation 1 all have that distinct “DFA sound,” which just two years ago would have meant nothing. In that time, James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy have made their production team and label the hottest shit in New York. Combining infectious, retro beats with a punk rock mentality, they’re the Neptunes of the indie world — nearly anything they touch is gold.
Included on DFA Compilation 1 (will there will more?) are most of the tracks that have appeared on the label’s 12 inches. But more than that, the compilation offers a soundtrack to an era, wedged somewhere between 2001 and today. When I recently heard “Losing My Edge” at a party, a friend of mine actually got mad, wondering how the deejay could get away with playing such an outdated song.
But I was there.
I was there in April 2002 at Passerby when Eric Duncan and Thomas Bullock spun the white label of “Losing My Edge” in a room full of kids and dry ice. I was there.
That night I remember thinking that I had to find out what the song was. I thought it was great, a beat ripped off of ACR’s “Do the Du” with funny lyrics about Can and Gil Scott Heron, and this amazing drum fill that had everyone going nuts by the time the song hit the seven-minute mark. When I found out it was LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy’s solo project, it made sense, but it also seemed like the end. It was a post post-modern example of itself: a namedropping hipster song about namedropping hipsters — swiftly securing its fleeting hip status as well as the inevitable backlash to follow. Today, it’s still a great song with truly hilarious lyrics, and will become, I believe, a perfect representation of what the scene was like in New York City in 2001-2003.
The compilation opens with the Juan MacClean’s electroclash (remember that?) hit “By the Time I get to Venus,” but it’s his vastly superior freestyle/EBM hybrid “You Can’t Have it Both Ways” that stands out as the best track on the compilation. It weaves for nearly 10 minutes through various genres while never giving in to either the cliches or trappings of any particular one; breathy female vocals, rave yelps, and crowd noises make it truly memorable.
Also appearing is the DFA’s oddball signings, Black Dice, with the recent “Cone Toaster.” Difficult as always, the band’s pedal abuse is backed with a (gasp!) dance beat, which adds a nice rhythmic backbone to their otherwise meandering, formless sound. The compilation closes with the epic “Endless Happiness,” also found on Black Dice’s full length from last year, Beaches and Canyons. It builds quite beautifully for 10 minutes as weird, world music tones give way to tribal drums which eventually fade out as a full five minutes of ambient beach noises finish it off, allowing for time to reflect on the serenity of the song, as well as the entire compilation.
Most of these songs are appearing on CD for the first time. If nothing else, DFA Compilation 1 offers a convenient, portable encapsulation of the DFA label as well as a collection of solid releases from a pair of indie producers who are now getting calls from Janet Jackson. Stay tuned.