Gaining your edge: An LCD Soundsystem cheatsheet

A month or so ago(I’m not sure, I’m not an almanac) it was announced LCD Soundsystem would be reuniting and headlining Coachella, touring and working on a new album.

There was even an upsetting Christmas ballad that captured the profound misery that can strike around the holidays created by disconnect from those you’re ostensibly closest to.

Naturally, I was ecstatic, but I had a realization. This is Happening came out nearly six full years ago. There are people who graduated high school, wrapped up their undergrad career and found jobs without having to reckon with a proper LCD release, and those people are just the right age to descend upon Coachella.

After pissing off Outkast, I don’t want the uninformed masses to ruin another reunion, so here’s some tips for becoming acquainted with one of the best bands of the ’00s.

  • Start with Sound of Silver

LCD’s second album is the band’s best reviewed album, and it’s probably their most accessible. Bandleader James Murphy has said in interviews as LCD went on, it became less of the Murphy show and more of a band. Personally, I think this is a good thing.



The album is a lean nine songs, and really demonstrates all the band’s facets, so it won’t be a slog even if don’t like a particular song.

“Watch the Tapes” shows the band in full post-punk mode, while “Us v Them” and “Sound of Silver” are the sort of lengthy, sloganeering dance jam that LCD are most associated with.

Sound of Silver also contains a handful of songs that are absolutely essential to know.

“North American Scum” is a really fun, goofy song; “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” is a love letter to the gritty New York that meant a lot to James Murphy and has become a song that brings the house down when performed live; and “All My Friends” is probably LCD’s most well-known song and a great representation of the band’s wit, emotional appeal and song craft.

  • Now, it’s time to skim the self-titled release

LCD Soundsystem is one of the first albums I remember finding inescapable despite none of its songs getting terrestrial radio play.

This was 2005, the same year Arctic Monkeys got big through Myspace. It was just starting to become clear that genuine frenzy could be created by the internet and music media. The blogosphere was a freshly coined term, and Murphy’s aging scenester wit was tailor made for the snark-appreciating denizens of the internet

I’m not sure if being 12 impacted how I took this album in, but it never did much for me, and it’s still probably the LCD Soundsystem album I listen to the least. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it is overstuffed and maybe a little undercooked.

That’s understandable because it was meant to be as a one-off outpouring from longtime DFA Records presence Murphy.

There’s still lots of worthwhile stuff and a lot of interesting germs that blossomed as LCD’s catalog expanded.

You’re going to absolutely listen to “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and “Loosing My Edge”. Then, Google some of the bands mentioned in the latter song because most of them are fantastic. If you’re trying to appear informed about LCD Soundsystem, you might as well dive into the deep end of the critical darling pool.

  •  Listen to the beginning, end and longest song on This Is Happening

This is without a doubt my favorite LCD Soundsystem album, but I think most people will pretty much get the point if they just listen to “Dance Yrslf Clean”, “You Wanted a Hit” and “Home”. While this is a tremendous album on its own, I really think it works just thaaat much better if you’ve heard the stuff that came before.

“Dannce Yrslf Clean”, This is Happening‘s opening track pretty much everyone’s favorite LCD Soundsystem song, and that is because what the song lacks in vowels, it makes up for in delayed payoff and crunchy synth.

“Home” is the closing track and bookend’s the album well. Whereas, “Dance Yrslf Clean” hides its pleasures for a couple of minutes, “Home” jumps right to it with a lush dance rock sound. Both examine exorcising negative emotion and the catharsis in nightlife revelry. They also feature Dayman-esque Ahhh’s, but the opener captures the rise, and the closer describes the descent.

“Dance Yrslf Clean” is all about moving past frustration via groove. Maybe transcending your turmoil is as simple as a giant synth sound. Of course, it’s not that simple.

“Home” is about being unable to really put your human insecurities on hold and the letdown of the promise slowly draining from a night out despite everyone’s best efforts to manufacture a wild time. It’s a song that really captures the subtle dismay of realizing a fun night has to end, and the realization the endless possibilities that seemed expansive and vital hours earlier were fleeting, if they ever existed.

“You Wanted A Hit” is sort of a mission statement for modern LCD Soundsystem. Everyone from Janet Jackson to Brittney Spears wanted Murphy to produce their albums around 2008, and he never relented, and LCD never released a half-assed, watered down version of their difficult to categorize music for the sake of sales.

If those three songs whet you’re appetite, I absolutely recommend listening to the full delightful album, but if you’re pressed for time I would rank the reaming songs in this order:”I Can Change”, “Pow Pow”, “All I Want”, “One Touch” and “Somebody’s Calling Me”.

  • Watch “Shut Up And Play The Hits”

It’s a concert film depicting what was ostensibly LCD Soundsystem’s last concert, and it was in Madison Square Garden. You need a little base knowledge of the band to fully enjoy it, but after your previous prep, if you can make it through the closing rendition of “New York I love You…” and its emotional acknowledgments without getting a little knotted up, you’re a robot.

Congrats! You know have passable LCD Soundsystem knowledge in time for festival season.


Author: Ben Hohenstatt

I was born April 7, 1992. I'm a reporter in Alaska, and an alum of Auburn University. I am an avid fan of music, Chicago sports teams and pop culture in general.

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