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Album review: LCD Soundsystem's 'This Is Happening'

Lcd_soundsystem_happening_2 On LCD Soundsystem’s last album “Sound of Silver,” singer-arranger James Murphy penned a most unexpected song — a transcendent, club-killing single about growing older. The two-chord piano plink of “All My Friends” made twentysomethings hoist beers in weekend rapture, thirtysomethings wonder what happened to those nights, and cemented Murphy as the most beloved stocky and unshaven grownup in music.

The virtues of LCD Soundsystem — a surgeon’s attention to detail, the pleasure of a slow-burning bass groove — are ageless. “This Is Happening,” the third and reportedly final LCD Soundsystem record, perfectly executes Murphy’s inimitable ideas for disco-rooted rock. But his sense of emotional grandeur has settled down a bit, and after a tune like “Friends” it’s tricky for him to un-ring that cowbell.

Instead, “This Is Happening” brims with smaller joys: the contrast between the wafer-dry vocal harmonies and funk-sopping synth bass on “Dance Yourself Clean”; the cut-rate laser noises on the calisthenic banger “Pow Pow.” These things accrue into a wry loveliness that’s never easy or expected. Nobody in contemporary music understands the sonic interplay between the synthetic and the organic like Murphy — the groaning guitar feedback and flitting keyboards of “All I Want” make for an exquisite daydream.

Weirdly, the “White Light/White Heat”-baiting first single “Drunk Girls” might be the most moving — after some hilarious party anthropology (drunk girls totally know that “Just ‘cause I’m heartless doesn’t mean that I’m mean”), Murphy comes out on the side of love: “I believe in waking up together, so that means making eyes across the room.”

Individually, these things never quite ascend to the power of “Friends” or “Someone Great.” But maybe that’s the point of growing older — eventually, you don’t want to be overwhelmed all the time. If this really is the last LCD record, then, to paraphrase its author, these songs are all friends that you can see every night.

— August Brown

LCD Soundsystem
“This Is Happening”
Virgin
Three stars (Out of four stars)


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