LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

James Murphy, King of Cool, Duke of New York, is on the third step of the unlikely hero’s journey, once traveled by a little known Hip-hop producer named Kanye West: his first release was a jagged, overlong, poorly paced masterpiece, his second was an opus that sounded strangely similar to the first, and now, on his third album in 5 years, Murphy stakes his claim to the dance world with a consistent, perfectly-plotted, and overall excellent album.

Ultimately, that run-on sentence proves only one thing, and that is that Murphy has left an impression on me as a listener. He is often called the music fan made good, kind of like the Kevin Smith of the music world where you know it’s his dream to basically school an industry he worships. Whether it’s Can, Television, the Stooges, or of course, Brian Eno and a certain Underground of a Velvet hue, Murphy lives, eats, and breaths his influences, which makes total sense when pretty much everything he’s ever produced sounds like a shortlist instead of a tracklist: this release is no exception.

Things start off strong with “Dance Yrself Clean”, a down-tempo stunner that builds as well as anything Murphy’s ever written. “Drunk Girls” is sort of the “North American Scum” of the album, a quick burst of sardonic energy that serves perfectly as a track for Letterman and his friends to hear. “One Touch” has Murphy basically re-enacting “Too Much Love” but at a greater velocity and a higher blood pressure, and quickly you realize the album’s biggest problem: you’ve heard this before.

Much of the album, if not all of it has lengthy precedent in Murphy’s work: “One Touch” is analogous to “Too Much Love”, “All I Want” is “All My Friends (2010 Version)”, “Pow Pow” is “Us v. Them (Talkitive Mix)”, and it goes on and on. This isn’t a very big problem, but when you’re struggling this hard to find fault in such a concrete album, little things become more bothersome; in fact, Murphy has done this his entire career, with “Get Innocuous” sounding oddly similar to “Losing My Edge” and “45:33” being re-cut and turned into “Someone Great”. He looks back into his own discography just as much as he revisits Lou Reed’s.

However, the album is a stunning growth of Murphy as a songwriter, something he first nailed on Sound of Silver and continues to grasp of This Is Happening, a paranoid, self-aware, and dangerously sarcastic album full of self-defense mechanisms (“Three/We have a black president, you don’t/So shut up”), self-deprecation (“Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry/And this is coming from me.”), and just a couple universal low-blows (“Be honest with me/honestly/unless it hurts my feelings”).

However, we’re all wondering the same pathetic thing: is This Is Happening better than Sound of Silver? The answer is no, but then again, does it really need to be? In the same way Graduation is not as excellent as Late Registration, This Is Happening simply doesn’t have the songs to hold a candle to what is basically the gold standard for Dance music from last decade. However This Is Happening is a flat-out great album, one that doesn’t feel as coherent or classic as it’s predecessor, but then again, Murphy seems oddly privy to this information. You Wanted A Hit? Well you’ve got one, so shut up and dance.

Score: A-

by Trevor “North American Scum” Johnson

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1 Comment

  1. New Review! LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening, The New Pornographers – Together « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening, by Trevor Johnson […]

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