Last night I finally watched LCD Soundsystem’s swan song live documentary Shut Up And Play The Hits. While it didn’t move me quite like I’d hoped it would(an 8 year old punching couch cushions pretending to be a member of the Justice League throughout the film didn’t help…in my living room, not the movie itself), I was still reminded of how much I’m going to miss LCD Soundsystem.
I’d first heard Murphy’s dance/punk hybrid in 2007 when I bought Sound Of Silver with some birthday money(thanks, ma).
Something about that album instantly grabbed me. Maybe it was the funky booty-shakin’ songs like “Time To Get Away”, “Us V Them”, and album opener “Get Innocuous”. Or it could’ve been the underlying punk aesthetic of “Watch The Tapes”. But maybe more than anything it was the middle-aged guy earnestness of songs like “All My Friends”, “Someone Great”, and “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”. Hell, it was all those things. For the first time in a long while I’d found an artist I could appreciate and admire that wasn’t in diapers when I was graduating high school. In fact, this guy was born in 1970, three years before me. I felt this guy was writing from a middle-aged dude’s perspective and not a young dude’s perspective. But it wasn’t like he was acting his age in the studio. He was creating these uptempo dance tracks, but not in an electronic musician’s headspace; from a punk rocker’s headspace. And once I started looking into Murphy’s and LCD Soundsystem’s background and picked up their debut album(the two-disc edition) I’d realized Murphy felt as inadequate in a young man’s world as I did(musically speaking). “Losing My Edge” was a song about a guy that thought he was relevant, but was finding out he wasn’t nearly as relevant as he thought. All that cool music and culture you thought you were privy to while everyone else was drooling over their Birkenstocks and Jane’s Addiction bootlegs wasn’t so underground anymore. I could relate to that. I felt that, man. And it was ass-shakin’ tunes, too(well, when no one else was around and all the curtains were shut and the doors were locked).
So, I’d found a new artist to adore, admire, and grow old with. In 2010 This Is Happening was released and I loved it. Long-ish songs, rhythmically heavy -and more lyrics about getting old and dealing with it- all done in an almost David Bowie-meets-middle-age-in-lower-Manhatten-circa-1978 sorta way. It sounded as if James Murphy -while maybe still not content in his personal life- had found a middle ground artistically. He was writing like a guy almost 40 years old and he was okay with that. He still had sass and that New York curmudgeonly lean in his writing, but it didn’t feel bitter. Sure, I was sorta late to the LCD Soundsystem party, but I thought this was going to be one of those parties that lasted forever(I may be late, but I brought imported beer and Pita chips..they’re in the kitchen). Well, maybe not forever, but at least until that point where my kids were getting into their records and I could be the cool dad that pulls out the old records for the “Wow! You are cool, dad!” moment. This was not going to be the case, as James Murphy announced he was done. LCD Soundsystem was getting out while the getting was good. They were leaving the party before anyone threw up in the punch bowl or jumped out of an upstairs window. But they were going out in style, man. A farewell concert in April of 2011 at Madison Square Garden, which leads me to last night…
I liked the documentary. I think it showed just how much LCD Soundsystem and its members meant to James Murphy. It also made me wish I could’ve seen them play a house show back in 2004. That would’ve been something to see. I think the most insightful parts of the documentary were the clips of his conversation with journalist Chuck Klosterman. Is it a stereotype to think all New York artists -be it musicians, directors, writers, painters, actors- are neurotic like Woody Allen? Even after saying this break up of the band was the best thing for him personally(so he can do other things he likes…like make coffee or produce Arcade Fire) he still seemed worried that breaking up the band could’ve been his biggest failure. And the scenes of him wandering around New York with his little dog the day after the show made me think this is one lonely guy. I know it’s all in the editing, but still. Whether he’s in a band or not, James Murphy will always be the quintessential fussy New York artist.
I think he could pretty much do whatever he wants at this point; direct, write, act(sorta), produce. But way deep down, I’m hoping that someday he’ll realize he’s still got some albums left in him. I hope he decides to don the LCD Soundsystem band name one more time and write that middle age dance punk masterpiece. Though, he’s going to have to hurry up. If he waits any longer it’s going to be an AARP masterpiece.
James Murphy, you can play at my house anytime you want. I’ll get some coffee brewing.