This Is Happening (2010)
Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)
For those unaware, LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy has created something of a debate among those who fill their free hours by listening to music. To some, Murphy represents the real fucking deal, the guy who blends beats, rock tendencies, and bizarre electronic noises better than anyone. To some, Murphy is a producer at the top of his game, a true titan of the music scene as it stands in 2010. However, for all the critical acclaim that has been shoveled LCD's way over the past half-decade and change, there are certainly still detractors. There are plenty of negative (or middling) words to be read concerning Murphy, and there are plenty of folks not ready to adorn his latest (and reportedly last) work as LCD Soundsystem an unqualified success.
Now it's time to announce my own stance. Me, I'm in Murphy's corner all the way. No, I'm not going to ever list LCD Soundsystem as one of my top handful of artists ever, but in the here and now there aren't really many better acts going. Even more impressive is the fact that each of the three major LCD records have shown improvements. The self-titled debut was impressive but occasionally uneven, but Sound of Silver and This Is Happening are both just about flawless. And when I say that, I mean it. Neither album is bound to elicit a whole lot of track-skipping.
I also don't fault Murphy one bit when it comes to his socially self-aware lyrics. As a guy who's spent a long time in the music game, he's obviously concerned about how he and his work are viewed to some degree. Does that make him come off as arrogant at times? I don't really think so, but others do. To me, as a creative-type person, you're always at least minimally curious to see what others think of your creations. To deny that is to embrace ignorance or feign some sort of cool that just doesn't (and shouldn't) exist. So if Murphy wants to talk about his reluctance to go certain directions with his art, his tendencies to worry about critical opinion, or his own poetic doubts, I don't see how that's anything but open and honest. If you want to bitch about the oblique nature of lyrics in indie music, LCD Soundsystem shouldn't be your target.
Having officially put my arm around Murphy, let me also say that I realize the guy is influenced by others. You don't have to pull my arm to get me to admit I hear some Talking Heads, David Bowie, and Brian Eno on Happening. Thing is, if we're going to start bitching at artists who take some of their creative notes from others, who are we not going to bitch at? So if you're me, you don't give two shits that "All I Want" sounds somewhat like Bowie. You just care that it's awesome, and you care that the lead guitar and random bleeps and bloops get the job done. You also don't care that Murphy takes almost three minutes to get into the meat of "Dance Yrself Clean". You care that once he does, it's totally worth it, and you literally can't stop different body parts from sporadically twitching.
"You Wanted A Hit", that's a great song, too. Nearly nine minutes of constant buildup about the artistic process are always welcome here. Over the course of the nine tracks on This Is Happening, boredom isn't going to ensue. As I alluded to earlier, there isn't a particularly weak track in the bunch. Oddly enough, the weakest is probably either lead single "Drunk Girls" or the slow, meandering penultimate "Somebody's Calling Me". Honestly, though, I wouldn't refer to either as weak. As my rating suggests, this is an excellent record I'll be listening to early and often. If this is the last thing we get from Murphy under his current nominal existence, I'm cool with it. Way to go out on top. Regardless, the 40 year-old is among the best and smartest producers working right now, so we'll be hearing from him again one way or another.