If it sounds like the Rapture, there’s a perfectly good explanation. LCD Soundsystem — an elaborate way of saying “James Murphy,” its sole member — was, along with production pal Tim Goldsworthy, the studio genius behind 2003’s primal revelation, “House of Jealous Lovers.” It’s hardly surprising, then, that the Soundsystem’s self-titled debut, an edgy explosion of agile beats and aching exclamations, often recalls that seminal predecessor. Murphy and Goldsworthy and the label they run, DFA, have been responsible for much of the newly christened disco-punk-funk canon of the last few years, contributing their own songs and their production brainchildren. So the most surprising thing about this LCD Soundsystem LP is that it’s also the first.
Several of Murphy’s tracks have gotten enough recognition lately to become bona fide club classics — especially the jaunty, cocksure “Yeah.” And the notion that this is the Soundsystem’s first stab at a proper full-length depends on your definition of proper. It’s actually a top-heavy double disc, the first disc consisting of nine new tracks, the second of six established ones.
It’s only slightly to LCD’s detriment that the older half is markedly better, because that stuff is indeed remarkable, and much of the new stuff is darn catchy. The second disc opens with one of 2002’s conversation pieces: “Losing My Edge,” a plaintive lament from Murphy about the intractable slide into post-hipsterdom. But this self-deprecation is a clever setup. The next five tracks are, if nothing else, a virtuosic display of edge.
“Beat Connection” hops into a beyond-danceable groove that refuses to quit, then gives way to several charging thrashers that would do Sabbath proud. But it’s in the alternate versions of “Yeah” where the Soundsystem’s edge is most keen. Anyone who can turn a brassy guitar lick straight from the Mark Knopfler songbook into the cocky funk centerpiece of a skittering techno anthem deserves his share of awe.
Hearing the new material, we perhaps understand Murphy’s reticence in releasing an LP. First single and opener “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House,” an irresistible crunch of lashing drums and eighth-grade power chords delivered with adolescent braggadocio to match, is an engaging tone-setter. But the album becomes more a collection of often-gorgeous, always-clever sonic collages than a broadly coherent work (although this is less a criticism than a comment on the peculiar reality of a wildly creative artist juggling genres one-handed).
“Movement” is a surly sneer rising out of a barely controlled rock chaos. And it works, but its abrupt transition into the serenely lovely “Never as Tired as When I’m Waking Up” somewhat diminishes the spell cast by either. Perhaps this effect is made more jarring by the fact that “Never as Tired” could have shown up on Dark Side of the Moon, the very archetype of the coherent concept album.
But whereas the LP format hardly appears to be the best showcase for LCD Soundsystem’s considerable talents, such an evaluation is, in a sense, mere quibbling. In the live show, where the discrete boundaries of tracks disappear, these songs are sure to conjure a disco-punk-funk wonderland, and any missteps that appear on the album will be more than forgiven.