Harry Wolff

You can't escape my laugh.

LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

May 19, 2010
Read time 3 minutes

There are few things I love more than summer albums.

You know the albums I'm talking about.  The ones that you crank to max volume in your car.  The ones that make you roll down all your windows and stick your hand out.  The ones that make you drive faster.

Also the ones that make you dance.

This new album from LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening, is that album.  It is their third and arguably their best.

LCD Soundsystem is already well known for making highly danceable tracks, and this album is a very logical and well thought-out extension.  On their second album, Sound of Silver, each song felt organized and arranged in a logical manner.  The songs progressed as you would hope.  They broached the realm of predictability, with a machine-like and metallic timbre.  However that metallic feel and sound is nowhere to be found on This Is Happening.

Dance Yrself Clean is the first track and it's love.  And I mean that.  It is a song that I loved from my first listen.  When the bass drops it bottom-outs the song and builds anticipation for the inevitable break.  And the break does comes - perhaps a little late - but I wouldn't have it any other way.  The track is just shy of nine minutes (8:58) and it isn't until the three-minute mark that the hi-hats, snare, and what-have-you join the party that is this track.  To imagine this track being played live makes my blood pump faster.

And that is truly the essence of this album.  This is an album that you can confidently play and dance to, from beginning to end.  You will not need to skip any track for fear of a slowdown.  You will be able to safely dance yourself into a sweat.  Sure, some tracks are slower than others, but none slow down enough that you'll be able to rest.  If you're having a dance party in the near future this album was made for you.

All I Want opens with a strong, simple, and catchy drum loop that is then joined with a soaring and gliding guitar.  There are of course other instruments at play:  there's a synth-piano playing rhythmic chords, a gentle bass that compliments the drums, and a dusty snare that fills in whatever dead air that may be left over.

Near the three-minute mark of All I Want a lead synth takes over playing a warbling and wandering melody that sounds as if it has a mind of its own.  At times it completely pushes aside James Murphy's voice (lead vocalist, primary band member) with its tenacious wondering and striking sound.  And the song continues in this way until its close: Murphy's voice battling against and with the lead synth.  These two leads swirl around each other and intertwine: at times it feels as if this was a recorded jam session.  Perhaps it was.

Yet that is what makes this album so good: its ability to sound spontaneous and alive while retaining the polish and shine of a revised and consciously planned record.  I have seldom heard those sounds bridged so effortlessly and effectively.

These bouts of planned spontaneity are heard throughout the album.  They are not isolated events of serendipity.  They are proof of mastery and ability to execute.  LCD Soundsystem managed to improve themselves, and that was not a small feat.  Their previous album Sound of Silver was amazing for its time yet This Is Happening handily trounces it.

As an addendum:  Perhaps the only flaw of this album - if you can call it a flaw - is its breadth.  This is not an album that can be put on for a quick listen.  Each track demands your attention and insists that you listen from beginning to end.  And you will.  And you'll be glad.

[audio:LCD Soundsystem - 04 - All I Want.mp3|titles=All I Want]