Why This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem is the album of the year

LCD Soundsystem’s recent show in Tripod was unquestionably the gig of the year.

“Just do it right, make it perfect and real,” sings LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy in the opening lines to This is Happening’s final song on (supposedly) the band’s final album. If Murphy never makes another record again, then this exquisite climax is a more than fitting finale to the band’s career.

While the other eight songs encompassed the prevailing excellence of the record (‘All I Want’, ‘Dance Yrself Clean’) as well as the occasional forgettable moment (‘Pow Pow’), nothing matched ‘Home’ in terms of style, elegance and panache. Therefore, while the overall album is not quite as perfect as 2007’s career-transforming Sounds of Silver, ‘Home’ is to my mind the best and most important track Murphy has ever written and the primary reason for this takes me back to those aforementioned, integral opening lines to the song.

“Just do it right, make it perfect and real,” will resonate primarily with the hardest of the hardcore LCD Soundsystem fans. It works on a number of levels and its sentiments are quite personal ultimately.

LCD Soundsystem’s self-titled debut album was ‘perfect’ in a sense. It was a double disc comprising of 16 of the most danceable songs this side of Daft Punk, even going so far as to namecheck the French duo in the album’s first single, just in case we didn’t gauge the band’s aesthetic initially. ‘Daft Punk is Playing at my House’ inferred that the band’s primary intention was to party as if it were perpetually 1999.

The record received near-unanimous critical acclaim and Murphy was earmarked as dance music’s great white hope. Yet, in conjunction with all this praise, there existed a palpable whiff of suspicion among critics. Sure, Murphy had boundless talent, but there was a question mark over whether he could add substance to this style. His music was seen as fun, though lacking soul on some level. He was considered too sarcastic in his vocal delivery, too cool to ever be taken entirely seriously. Yet all these songs were in fact deeply sincere – ‘Losing my Edge’, for example, was a soaring critique of hipster culture that was perceived, in most quarters, as essentially a novelty song.

In subsequent interviews, Murphy seemed obsessed over critics’ unwavering tendency to take his undoubtedly impressive music with a pinch of salt. And so, with the release of his second album, Murphy delivered songs such as ‘All My Friends’ and ‘Someone Great’ in a far more plaintive fashion than was the case with their predecessors. Suddenly, critics sat up and took notice, realising there was more to Murphy than his initial caricature as the epitome of cool.

And so in Murphy’s resplendent adieu to LCD Soundsystem, he manages to seamlessly blend the stylish ‘perfection’ of his first album with the brutal, unabashed ‘realness’ of his second record, thereby encapsulating the two foremost components of his music in the course of one seven-minute slice of nirvana.

In interviews following the release of Murphy’s third record, he spoke at length about notions of cool and its inextricable ties with a sense of fakeness. He related how ever since he was a child, he had abhorred this notion of cool, and how it invariably separated kids in the playground in terms of status – namely creating distinct groups encompassing ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’ kids.

You get the feeling therefore that Murphy interpreted his newly-acquired status as an arbiter of cool to be an insult rather than a compliment, consequently electing to alter his musical persona and thus, setting about radically changing how people generally perceived him. Hence: “Just do it right, make it perfect and real.”

Other honourable mentions: All Day – Girl Talk, High Violet – The National, Cosmogramma – Flying Lotus, Have One on Me – Joanna Newsom, Thank Me Later – Drake, Sir Lucious Left Foot… The Son of Chico Dusty – Big Boi, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West, Swim – Caribou, The Lady Killer – Cee Lo.  

Also, check out this link to James Murphy’s brief-but-awesome Guardian blog:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2007/feb/16/murphyslorethatsfightingta?INTCMP=SRCH

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Don Van Vliet has died at the age of 69.

Today marks the sad passing of Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart – a legend among music nerds such as myself. I won’t write too much on the subject, as words can hardly convey the utter genius of his music. All I’ll say is this – if ever I feel in danger of losing faith in music amidst this X Factor-obsessed world, a record such as Trout Mask Replica never fails to remind me why I fell in love with it in the first place.

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