“Please shake me from my lovesick patient dream,” James Murphy implores on the opening track of the new LCD Soundsystem album “american dream.”
For those unaware, LCD Soundsystem is kind of a big deal. They are a rock band led by James Murphy, and throughout the 2000’s they released groundbreaking electro-indie albums. But when the world needed them most, they vanished. They “broke up” in 2011, only to “reunite” four years later. In all that time, James Murphy still hasn’t brushed his hair. Some accuse them of performing this drama in order to bump up ticket sales. Who’s to say. Regardless, new LCD Soundsystem music merits excitement.
In common LCD Soundsystem fashion, the music on “american dream” builds around tinkering drum beats and wonky synths. Whether or not the kitsch is ironic or not has never been clear, and that’s part of the magic. At times the music becomes very simple, but also very visceral and moving. This basic approach reminds the listener why music is worth falling in love with.
If nothing else, “american dream” wins the award for worst album artwork for the year. The cover looks like something I would have made in Journalism 108. This sort of stuff brings up the question which has plagued LCD Soundsystem fans since the beginning: is this all a big joke? How self-aware is Murphy? What is sincere and what is sarcastic? Why go out of your way to lower case all of the album titles aside from irritating college students writing album reviews? I digress.
The songs are mostly upbeat and catchy, but only one of the songs is under five minutes, making radio play difficult. Rounding out each side of the album, “how do you sleep” and “black screen” are each nine minutes. These are both epic journeys.
LCD Soundsystem wears their influences on their sleeve. With a swelling anthemic quality, “call the police” is reminiscent of “Heroes”-era David Bowie. As on every album, there are a handful of songs on which they do their best Talking Heads impression. This time around, “other voices” and “change yr mind” stick out.
These songs have a distinct groove, but Murphy is at his best when he is at his most sentimental. Songs like “oh baby” will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
The themes of “american dream” hinge on its title track, which tells the story of a righteous party, where the “revolution” was, “that would set you free from those bourgeoisie,” when in reality all you did was “took acid and looked in the mirror.” Murphy reflects on getting older, saying “In the morning everything’s clearer/when the sunlight exposes your age.” He then reassures “But that’s okay.” He seems to view the process of aging not as a loss, but as a new kind of freedom. “Find the place where you can be boring,” he encourages. He departs with the amorous attachment to late night debauchery, singing “At least instead of sleeping here, you’d prefer your own bed, come on.”
A title like “american dream” will certainly inspire expectations of diatribes against certain parties who shall remain nameless. However, little to no political commentary is apparent. Not only does the album’s sound have a dreamy quality, the album is full of allusions to “dreaming” and “waking up.” Dreaming refers to a disassociation with reality. In order to get back in touch with a more accurate perception of truth (i.e., wake up), we must relinquish the romantic myth of ourselves. The dreaming is cozy, but one must let it go in order to reach the self-realization Murphy seeks.
Although “american dream” may not bring anything new to the table sonically, it is still always good to hear from LCD Soundsystem. With so much panic and urgency in the world, Murphy’s blissfully disoriented point of view is refreshing.