Friday, 13 January 2012

SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS: What LCD Soundsystem meant to me

Watch it!
That is the new trailer for the upcoming documentary about the dance-punk outfit LCD Soundsystem and the head of the band and DFA Records, James Murphy. I tweeted last night after finally waiting all day to watch the trailer that if there was one person in the world I'd want to know more about, it's James Murphy.

The band LCD Soundsystem means a lot to me. From their first track I heard called Daft Punk is Playing at My House, I was hooked to their funked up bass and strong beats, it's almost like this was the music I'd been waiting all my life to hear. Tribulations was the follow up single which I caught late night on music programme, Rage and loved it to death. The single-take music video has Murphy and recorded iterations of him wandering through a studio in multiple forms, which look like he's travelling but his video counterparts really do most of the work going from trial to trial.

The first album was a beautifully made, fun and incredibly well-written, what I dubbed, party album, but peeling back the layers I had realised it was more than that. The first disc of the self-titled album contains some great tracks such as Losing my Edge and Too Much Love. I've compared it, much like Justice's first album, to Daft Punk's Homework. The sound is raw, the beats are simple and the music is effective. It was unlike anything I'd ever heard before.

This was all just beginners work and I had yet to hear Murphy's (in my opinion) tour de force. I started listening to LCD in high school and around the time of graduating, the second album, Sound of Silver was released. The album had a stronger and more melancholic tone, even ending with the track, New York I Love You (But You're Bringing Me Down). The album is my favourite and includes the titular track, Sound of Silver, which contains the lyrics "Sound of Silver/Talk to Me/Makes you want to feel like a teenager/Till you remember the feelings of/A real life emotional teenager/Then you think again...

These words brought me out of my post-high school, pre-quarter-life crisis funk that I'd been having for quite some time and made me realise that I'm no longer in that emotionally scorned state where I have to tread egg shells with everyone and that I can be who I am now. Maybe not Murphy's intentions, but music clearly speaks way too much for me. Anyway, several tracks from Sound of Silver, Someone Great, North American Scum, Get Innocuous, Us vs. Them, Time to Get Away, the aforementioned New York and All My Friends, all drove home Murphy's feelings about love, loss, control, misunderstandings, distance and emotional handling, all behind incredibly layered disco beats infused with electronica and Murphy's voice.

Murphy himself has always seemed like a mystery to me. He is a producer and a musician, but that is almost all that I can remember off the top of my head. I remember reading a few things here and there about how he's properly trained and that LCD was really just meant to be a ten year project, because of his age and worrying about it going stale, etc. But the trailer emphasises quite a personal side to Murphy that I hope the film shows (even though the last moments of the trailer, mixed with sound, edit it to look so).

LCD itself was a gateway drug to me, for Soulwax and subsequently 2manyDJs how I hold in the utmost regard in terms of DJing and talent. In fact without finding LCD late night on Rage I would probably not have the musical knowledge or love of bands I love today such as people like The Rapture, Steve Aoki, Girl Talk, DJ Yoda or even, Uffie.
Don't knock her till you try it.
In fact, I saw Murphy at Field Day the beginning of 2010 doing a DJ set and he was phenomenal, playing all sorts of classic 70's disco tracks, including Love Hangover, which just put the entire crowd into an amazing groove. One of my favourite quotes about DJing comes from Murphy: "I think every DJ should be in a punk band for a year. Because to video game tester, might be the easiest, simplest, most overpaid job on the planet."

Finally, in mid 2010, This is Happening is released and whilst I personally didn't enjoy the album on release, it has grown on me over time. It's definitely a great album, but it's length and some of it's lyrics just rub me the wrong way. Two stand out tracks Drunk Girls and I Can Change, show the two-sided coin of Murphy's personality that comes through in the music. Mocking the dance crowd he plays to of mainly girls who have become apart of the Dance-Punk scene (See: Hipsters) and the almost on hands and knees image of a man professing his own insecure doubts upon his personality and repeating "I Can Change". Murphy's final album was meant to be a swan song to everything LCD has done and it shows. The themes are strong, even if the album is light and the heart and soul of the album shines through with Murphy's singing and his talent as a producer to let the bass guitar and electronica do all the work.

The title itself of This is Happening was an affirmation of Murphy's belief that he was going to go through with this. That titling the album itself, he'd be hearing it days on end and finally committing to the death of LCD Soundsystem. I actually wrote a small piece last year about how LCD shutting up shop for my University magazine. The lack of Murphy and DFA, essentially meant the death of Dance-Punk. I mentioned several bands who were still continuing the tradition (i.e. The Rapture) but Murphy leaving the scene meant a lack of direction of what Dance-Punk truly meant, at least for me.

Dance-Punk was the musical rhythm of classic funk and mix of synths and simple lyrics, but had the heart and sometimes aesthetics of punk. People who made their own way and their own tracks with just the influence of Daft Punk or ELO or Joy Division. All of these bands are the seeds planted in most dance-punk bands minds when it comes to what I think Dance-Punk can be. But sadly those seeds may be dying out.

So on April 2nd, 2011, LCD Soundsystem played their final show with a concert at Madison Square Garden over several nights. I happened to see James Murphy at the Big Day Out in January of last year. It was my first one and probably my last, depending on 2013's line-up, as seeing Murphy on stage, as I moved closer and closer was surreal. Seeing the man covered with sweat and his band mates watching his every move, leading it like a physical conductor and loving every single lyric he sang, with the crowd singing it louder back to him, was a sight to see. The concert was streamed live online and luckily someone recorded it.

And smash cut to now, almost a year later after seeing Murphy play for the first and last time in my life on stage and this trailer crashes upon my mental shores. I literally spent my entire train ride going through the day's tweets and seeing it pop up twelve different times and actually sending a frustrated tweet to my mobile network saying how terrible their 3G is.

The trailer itself captures the final performance, a four hour grandoise representation of how amazing the band was. I once watched it at my University's library during a very long break and almost cried at the end of it. No concert has ever made me cry and it looks like this film will to. The trailer alone is moving and uses the song 'All My Friends' from Sound of Silver. If it had used 'Someone Great', from the same album, I would have cried just watching the trailer.

The crowning moment of that trailer is Murphy looking at those instruments (supposedly) post-performance and there is a dead silence after 'Friends' finishes. The visual answer to the question "What's your life like now?", to which Murphy answer's, quipping, "I don't doesn't start till the third" a reference to the day after the final concert. Murphy has always been a fairly funny and charismastic guy to anyone who has seen the Soulwax documentary, Part of the Weekend Never Dies, knows this. This is probably my most anticipated film now. Above The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers, above The Hobbit, I want to see the story of Jmaes Murphy. Not some Hobbits, not some Bat Man, not some predisposed superheroes joining together with over fifty years worth of canon and written by one of the wittiest TV writers in TV history....



Now I'm gonna listen to LCD Soundsystem all day.

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