Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Album 3: LCD Soundsystem, "The sound of silver"

LCD soundsystem is the project of New Jersey born producer James Murphy, a sombre, middle aged looking man, who you wouldn't expect to be the time to produce some of the catchiest and disco like songs this side of the 70s.

The first LP produced by the act, "LCD Soundsystem", was a double disc epic of classic electronic pop songs, in a time when such a thing was far from common, and well before "nu-rave" was on the scene. Chances are you will have heard "Daft Punk is Playing in my house", a 5 minute dancefloor classic that you simply cannot not dance to, a song which reached #29 in the UK charts. If you haven't heard the first album, definitely download "Tribulations", an uptempo synth based song which is one of those tracks to play in the morning to get you out of bed.

After much success with the debut album, expectations were raised for "Sound of Silver". With a much changed music scene, where electronic music is much more at the forefront of the charts due to the likes of Klaxons and CSS, would LCD be able to step up to the challenge, or simply rest on its Laurels?

The simple answer is there is no simple answer. The album sees a big change in direction to the sound for Murphy, whose trademark nasal vocals are found a lot less frequently on this record. Single "North American Scum" has clearly been released to appeal to fans of the last record, following in much the same vein as the debut, with driving disco drums, big bass lines and a lot of dynamic with the change into the massive chorus. A very good song, but wholly unrepresentative of the album.

Murphy has gone for a considerably more emotional sound on this record. Gone are the catchy keys and unique vocal hooks, replaced with a lot more singing, and songs that are a lot less instantly accessible. For some songs this works brilliantly; Track of the album, "Someone Great", is a very relaxed effect, heavy on synth and effects, with simply perfect lyrics about losing someone very special. Very emotional, and perfectly executed.

The problem with this album is that it is a live album. LCD are a great live act, with everyone bouncing up and down and having a dance. This is a dancing album, but it doesn't work on record. Songs like title track "Sound of Silver", seem to go on for ages, with the same beat, repeating over and over, with bits being added and built up, forever. Live, this can and will work. On record, it leads to a very bland sound that could be used for elevator music. "All my friends" suffers from the same condition, with the main riff, a very nice and simple piano line, is repeated throughout the entire song, which is slowly built up and has everything else coming in after; First the drums, then the vocals. A good song, with some nice gentle singing from Murphy. However, the song ends up dragging, and leads to the listener becoming disinterested. This too, is a "proper" song, not a dance floor one. I don't think it will work live, and I don't think it works as well as it could on record.

Album closer, "New York, I love you but you're bringing me down" is another proper song, a beautiful piano piece, whose lyrics are self explanatory from the title, which finishes with a nice piece of musical aggression. A nice way to end the album, although it doesn't fit with anything else. There will be no bouncing to this song. Maybe some romantic dancing though.

There are still hints of the old Soundsystem in there. "Watch the tapes" comes in with a catchy-as-you-like vocal riff, then kicks into driving drums and bass line, with the old school vocal lines from Murphy, making you want to get out your seat and bounce around. "Time to get away" also offers hints of the debuts vocal lines, however the tracks tempo lets it down as it's much to slow to move about like a madman to. This track also suffers from the albums "start small, add things to it, add more things to it, keep doing this for a long time" problem. Although it has plenty of cowbell in it, which helps :)

This album is the reason why iTunes is good. It is a mess, and it's hit and miss. Half the album (North American Scum, Someone great, All my friends, New york...) are great songs, which I recommend you go buy. Even where I've criticised them, they are still worth listening to in isolation from the rest of the album. Then there are the other songs, which I would recommend certainly not paying for, like opener "Get Innocuous!". Although this has been getting a lot of praise from some camps, I can honestly say it sounds like a poor self indulgent experimental piece, which unfortunately set the tone for the rest of the album.

With this album, James Murphy has changed the direction of LCD from pop disco to a bit of pop, a bit of emotion, a bit of experimentation, which has led to a mixed album of hits and misses, and overall an album that does not gel. By all means listen to the tracks I recommended, but certainly don't buy this album. There's a lot of other albums that deserve your undivided attention more.

Download: Someone great, All my Friends
Don't download: Get innocuous!, us vs them


Tom said...

Sam Sam Sam, nice review.

You should check out this link

It's a remix of the whole sounds of silver album from a group that have done loads of other unofficial remixes of artists like Prodigy and Chemical Brothers.

Thom Cuell said...

Oi, what happened to the billy ruffian review then?

Project WANNABE said...

Pretty cool song