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Live review: LCD Soundsystem commands the crowd of drunk girls (and boys)

June 7, 2010 | 11:07 am

This much is true: If you write a song called “Drunk Girls,” no matter how thick you cake on the layers of irony, you will reap what you sow.

Of course, there are other ways to explain the popularity of James Murphy, the 40-year-old frontman of LCD Soundsystem, who sold out the Hollywood Palladium on Friday night: He’s synthesized the last 30 years of avant-garde guitar and dance music into a pop-friendly package with knowingly referential winks for the snobs (covers of tracks by Suicide frontman Alan Vega; Brian Eno and David Bowie homage; the critical catnip of debut single “Losing My Edge”) and enough extended groove for the Fisher Price rave kids. He’s Grammy-nominated. Spike Jonze directs his videos. He’s toured with Arcade Fire. He’s even made an album for Nike.

But had there been breathalyzers lining Hollywood Boulevard around midnight, they would have revealed a ridiculously high percentage of drunk girls — and even more drunk boys. As in the first single from  LCD Soundsystem's third album, “This Is Happening,” there were drunk girls waiting an hour in line to pee, drunk girls queuing in 30-person columns to purchase $10 drinks to prolong their buzz. Drunk boys who didn’t walk like pedestrians, they fist-pumped like frat boys — not the “Jersey Shore” crowd, but certainly their viewing audience (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Perhaps not since Radiohead, Murphy’s former Capitol label-mates, has a longtime underground darling been so embraced by the mainstream, creating a weird dissonance: people losing their senses to “Losing My Edge’s” deadpan declaration that “I was there in the Paradise Garage DJ booth with Larry Levan” -- and missing the reference to the legendary New York DJ.

But that’s part of Murphy’s genius, with his live set and recordings distilling everything from vintage house to Krautrock, to analog and abraded synth music, and pairing it with caustic, clever lyrics about everything from fan boy fantasies of Daft Punk house parties (“Daft Punk Is Playing at My House”) to elegiac memories of departed friends (“Someone Great”).  And, yes, drunk girls.

The meaning might have been lost inside the glow stick-wielding, my-first-rave madness, but the melodies weren’t; Murphy’s crack six-piece ensemble immaculately reconstructed the sure-shot party anthems from the band’s three albums. “All My Friends” turned into a 10-minute-plus epic, causing rampant head bobbing and bear hugs among both the bros and the Brooks Brothers crowd.

Gone was the slick “Stop Making Sense”-type linen suit that Murphy sported at Coachella. Casually clad in a white Yves St. Laurent T-shirt, Murphy, a slightly doughier Brett Favre doppelganger, made for an unlikely but highly competent frontman. While he kept the banter to a minimum -- aside from having to make conversation during a rendition of “Get Innocuous” interrupted by a broken piano -- his singing has evolved from the caffeine-addled yelp of his early days into a fairly supple instrument capable both of stretching notes to an almost Morrissey-like croon and offering aloof robo-vocals of a pre-ambient Eno.

Murphy has announced that “This Is Happening” will be the last LCD Soundsystem project, and it’s difficult not to interpret that decision as a tacit admission that he’s exhausted the possibilities of this incarnation. Like the mantra of Orange Juice, the seminal post-punk outfit, Murphy seems to understand the need to “rip it up and start again.” In what could be his final Los Angeles show under the LCD umbrella, he can take solace in the fact that he’ll depart at or near his peak.

The final song of his encore was “New York, I Love You,” a kiss-off to the grit and grime of Ed Koch-era New York. The crowd of Angelenos, largely too young to remember even the days of Mayor Dinkins, let alone Koch, went wild, swaying with ecstasy -- likely both figuratively and literally. It was a fitting finale: the sound of people laughing at a joke that they might or might not have understood.

-- Jeff Weiss

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