Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening

If he is to be believed, This Is Happening is James Murphy’s last album as LCD Soundsystem.  A lot of people are going to be unhappy if this turns out to be accurate as LCD Soundsystem is very popular and This Is Happening has been garnering rave reviews just about everywhere you look.

But not here.  As LCD Soundsystem Murphy does pop and rock influenced dance music and he does it very well.  He is also a skilled producer who wields the recording studio like a finely tuned instrument.  The man knows what he’s doing.  Pop and rock influenced dance music – I like that.  A highly skilled music producer – I like that and as I struggle to achieve even amateur status with music production skills I greatly appreciate being able to hear it.  So what’s not to like?  I’m not sure, but This Is Happening just isn’t doing it for me.

One feature of This Is Happening that appears again and again in the glowing reviews is Murphy’s intimate knowledge of his record collection.  This tune takes the guitar line from a King Crimson song, this other one channels Iggy Pop, that tune is Murphy doing David Bowie, that other tune is Murphy doing Remain in Light era Talking Heads.  This all strikes me as accurate and leads me to wonder if part of the appeal of This Is Happening is that Murphy is “doing” the artists that many of the current crop of rock/pop/dance music press think are very cool.

I think his making music in the style of <fill in the artist here> may be part of the reason why I’m having trouble finding much of interest in This Is Happening.  Murphy is doing a pretty good imitation of, for example, David Byrne, but David Byrne does it much better.  Same with Talking Heads, Murphy does it pretty well but they do it better.  Same with Bowie, same with all of them.  I listen to This Is Happening and I’m repeatedly struck with the thought that this is ok but if I’m going to listen to this, I’d rather listen to Remain in Light (or whatever is being mimicked in the current song).

Listening to This Is Happening puts me in mind of watching someone else play Rock Band or Guitar Hero.  Now Murphy is an accomplished musician and playing Guitar Hero has as much to do with actually playing a guitar as playing an air guitar in your underwear.  Murphy can actually make the music and your average Guitar Hero guy can’t, but when you get right down to it you’re watching (Rock Band) or listening (This Is Happening) to some guy pretend he’s somebody else.  I’d really like to hear Murphy do music of his own that isn’t trying to sound like some touchstone from his past and maybe this is what he intends with his announcement that This Is Happening is the last LCD Soundsystem album.  If that’s true, the next Murphy CD could be a real treat, at least for me, because there’s no doubt that the man has skills.

“Pow Pow” from This Is Happening


06/16/2010 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] R&B, and disco with a healthy dose of psychedelic rock.  Like LCD Soundsystem’s recent This Is Happening, many of the tracks on The Phenomenal Handclap Band sound like The Phenomenal Handclap Band doing […]

    Pingback by Review: The Phenomenal Handclap Band, The Phenomenal Handclap Band « Tuned In To Music | 07/06/2010 | Reply

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