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LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening
In 1996, Weezer released Pinkerton, the definitive self-loathing record of the 90s. Much has been written about Pinkerton’s cringingly juvenile honesty, and herds of confused and frustrated Generation-Xers read way too much into it, to the point that Weezer’s front man Cuomo rejected the record’s insight and said, ’It's like getting really drunk at a party and spilling your guts in front of everyone, feeling incredibly great and cathartic about it, then waking up the next morning and realizing what a complete fool you made of yourself.’ Producer James Murphy, better known as the vocals and brains of LCD Soundsystem, is perpetually partying and confessing, yet never waking up to regret it.
Murphy, who turned forty while recording the album, said this is to be the last that we’ll see from LCD Soundsystem. For him, it was a side project that grew monstrously to consume his life. Murphy got his start as a mock rock star by the time he began losing his edge to younger, hipper New Yorkers. He has made an entire career out of self-aware electronic anthems in post-ironic fashion. After two successful and acclaimed runs, LCD returned for a final round of hedonism dressed in fat beats, melodic harmonies and bowed with vintage synthesizers.
This is Happening finds LCD Soundsystem at its most intimate. Aside from bombastic ’Drunk Girls,’ which was added solely to counterbalance the overblown and subtle tracks on the album. This is Happening is elaborate, concise and takes its sweet time to build up to its explosive conclusions. The opener 'Dance Yrself Clean' alters between cold realities and the escapism of a life of party hopping. Again, Murphy comes off as the most insightful and talkative person that you’ll ever bump into in a club.
However, Murphy isn’t operating according to any kind of master plan; he just speaks his mind. 'I Can Change' is a yawn-inducing plea for love; it cuts to the chase and confesses, ‘I can change if it helps you fall in love’. Murphy believes that playing it cool is just a waste of time.
Direct and clear, LCD Soundsystem is one of the rare bands that doesn’t hide under cryptic yearning or a desire to be cool. He’s reached the point where cool doesn’t matter anymore. Forget about the words for a minute, audible as they are; it’s the funk and groove that should draw you in. LCD’s knack for taking his early electronica influences and using vintage synthesizers and old-school drum beats to make nifty dance cuts is undeniable and utterly delicious.
One of the shortest tracks on the album is ‘DMT Song’. Created with the help of bassist/vocalist, Thundercat, it is the most vocally dense song on the record. Slow and dreamy, with high-pitched, slightly dissonant, vocals, it's a good intro to the next track, ‘The Nightcaller’. Aptly titled, this song features a groovy dance bass underneath a synthesizer melody that sounds ideal for waving your arms around on the dance floor.
‘Getting There’, with vocals by Niki Randa, is reminiscent of Massive Attack. Not only because of the elongated vocals, but the muffled bass beat and dreamy bell sounds could certainly also have spawned from the brains of 3D and Daddy G. The same goes for ‘Hunger’; a song that sounds like it was recorded underwater and also features Randa. Its spacious melody is broken up by a bridge with echoing vocals and harpsichord-like keyboards.
Erykah Badu is the only vocalist to appear on the album that Flying Lotus hasn’t worked with previously. Her vocals work really well on the African sounding track ‘See Thru To U’ - hopefully, Badu will become incorporated into Ellison’s fixed team of vocalists.
‘Putty Boy Strut’ sounds like a broken toy gone mental, with a catchy musical theme that returns in the deeper layers of ‘Me Yesterday/Corded’.
‘Electric Candyman’ features vocals by Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke, and is a slow track with male and female vocal melodies mixed together in a way that almost sounds disorienting. Yorke’s voice is hardly recognisable, which seems like a waste considering his great, and highly distinguishable, vocal abilities.
Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, ‘Flying To Berlin/Husbands’, Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same.
This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn’t always a good thing.
The opening track, ‘The Answer’, heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words “If you don't love me/You don't love anybody” throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth’s sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record.
That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song ‘Adore’. It’s slow, it’s bassy, it’s reverby (is that even a word?) it’s dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016.
Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, ‘T.I.W.YG’, is almost a sequel to ‘The Answer’ in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love.
For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.