If you were at the Hollywood Palladium for 1 or more of LCD Soundsystem’s 5 sold-out shows last week, you witnessed some of the dance-rockers’ greatest performances ever locally. The start of the last night was especially thrilling, with frontman James Murphy arriving on stage as if he’d just punched the clock and trudged away from his corporate day job to channel all of his frustration and frazzle into the paranoid stomp of opener “Losing My Edge”—the only time they played it during this series of shows.
If you’ve heard the tune, you know it makes a statement on its own as the first song played on the fifth and final night in a row at such a storied venue. It’s also a giant “FUCK YOU” representative of what these New Yorkers are all about: the impending doom of growing old; the trendier next generation coming up too quickly from behind; and, these days, an assertive head-nod to the naysayers who doubted the authenticity of their return in the first place.
In a post Murphy famously penned after reuniting the band in early 2016—which, for some fans, was too soon after their much-publicised “Long Goodbye”/last show ever at NYC’s Madison Square Garden in 2011)—the singer wrote:
“We have to play better than we’ve ever played, frankly. Every show has to be better than the best show we’ve played before for anyone to even say ‘Well, that was good. I mean, not as good as they used to be. But, you know. It was good.’ We know all that. Which is healthy for us, because it means we go back to war, like in the beginning. For us it was always war, but now it’s really with ourselves. Maybe we have a chance to make it right.”
Though in reality they owe nothing to anybody, LCD did make it right over the course of two unrelenting hours, as a few thousand sweaty bodies gyrated in unison to the non-stop beat blast from the seven-piece ensemble and Murphy’s mostly-coherent sing-song ramblings. The stage itself was riddled with gear and flooded with an intense light show that reflected laser beams of color off the massive disco ball which has become the centerpiece of their stage show.
To LCD’s credit, the band IS battle ready and reviews from across the country reflect that triumph. To the discredit of the national reviewers and headline writers covering the shows, many simply observed them in context of their nearly two-year-long return without pondering the future.
Though LCD released its largely-beloved fourth album American Dream in September, many of the recent headlines look backward; a stark contrast to a band that is in rapid forward motion:
“LCD Soundsystem is a blast from the dance-band past at the Palladium”—LA Times
“LCD Soundsystem says it doesn’t do hits but was generous with them Monday night”—Dallas Observer
“LCD Soundsystem dance themselves clean in Detroit”—Detroit Metro Times (the laziest of all headers, c’mon guys!)
Only SF Weekly got it right—reviewing one of the other rare shows this tour where the band also opened with “Losing My Edge”—with a headline that declared “LCD Soundsystem has yet to peak.” Writer Peter Lawrence Kane concluded their “foothold is surer than ever.”
Arguably, this is a band that’s gone 4 for 4, releasing a body of near-perfect work (if you’re into this sort of thing—and if you’ve read this far, clearly you are). Musically, there’s a handful of bands that draw comparisons to LCD Soundsystem, but few draw the same sonic parallels as Talking Heads.
That New York outfit found plenty of early success with “Psycho Killer” and their cover of Al Green’s “Take Me To the River,” but it wasn’t until their fourth album, the Brian Eno-produced Remain In Light, that they sunk into an even-funkier, unexpected new groove. The album was later named the No. 4 best album of the 1980s by Rolling Stone—just behind entries by The Clash, Prince and U2—and earlier in 2017 it was entered into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. If you’ve never listened, it’s excellent and you should.
LCD Soundsystem touring on their fourth release in 2017 is essentially Talking Heads in 1980—the year Remain In Light came out; the same year they unleashed the killer set above in Rome, Italy. Had LCD debuted the live version of “Other Voices” at any of these recent shows—a song that recalls Talking Heads’ seminal “The Great Curve” from that album—the comparison would undeniable.
Back in the early '80s, Talking Heads took a break after touring the world in support of Remain In Light. The members pursued music individually in the intermediary, before releasing four more albums as a band. Their highest-selling album and highest-charting song came in the second half of their career, after their initial breakthrough, not because of it.
When LCD Soundsystem toured on 2010’s This Is Happening, they did so for less than a year. Will the same hold true for the American Dream tour, which launched in September when the album arrived?
With their L.A. stand concluded, LCD is headed next to Canada, and then Philadelphia and Boston, before wrapping up the year with 10 sold out nights in their hometown of Brooklyn. In early 2018, there’s a smattering of scheduled dates in the U.S., plus shows in Australia and New Zealand, Europe and South America.
But after that … what’s next for LCD Soundsystem?
Presumably they’ll return to the States to play arenas, where hopefully the rest of American Dream will be unveiled. (Thirty percent of the album—“Other Voices,” “How Do You Sleep?,” and “Black Screen”—plus B-side “Pulse (v.1)” has yet to be played live.) And, according to Setlist.fm, there’s a handful of songs they’ve played less than 20 times in nearly 250 shows together, so those could be aired for old-time’s sake.
Somehow, too, it seems their second best song—the Kraftwerk-cribbing “Disco Infiltrator” from their self-titled debut—has NEVER been played live. Unleash the beast, guys! (Side note: “Home” is their best song, if you were wondering.)
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It’s likely Murphy won’t make the same mistake again by calling it quits prematurely. He knows how precious the idea of the band is to the curators of its memory, and he seems to have learned how not to approach breaking up and getting back together again should the thought resurface.
Unlike the Talking Heads, whose reunion is unlikely because the members’ relationships are strained, LCD Soundsystem are friends who are reinvigorated by new music and more confident than ever in their decision to reform. If these players—who are touring right now at the top of their game—head right back into the studio, who knows what kind of sweet ear candy could result from the sessions. It’s hard to imagine what new technologies and old techniques could create for future albums, but the ideas have likely been floating around in Murphy’s brain in varying degrees of completion for some time.
Could LCD Soundsystem only be halfway or two-thirds through with a career we all thought was finished? More importantly: Will the future of dance music be defined, ironically, by one of its eldest, most jaded figureheads?
Considering the success of their resurrection and the excellence of American Dream, it would be a huge disservice to their legacy, and especially their potential, to stop the party now.