American Dream‘s album-opening song is not “Dance Yrslf Clean”.
Because the awesome, impossibly huge synths kick in about three minutes earlier on “Oh Baby” which seems destined to rank among the upper echelon of LCD Soundsystem songs despite the impossibly tough standard set by its predecessor.
The notes are deeper and less frenetic than on LCD’s last side-one, track-one, but the crunchy tone is the same.
Then James Murphy is cooing comforting phrases and shimmering keys enter the fray. Quickly, whatever concerns you have that 8 years away from the improbably cool post-rock-dance-punk indie icons may have dulled their penchant for cranking out classics melt away.
You’ll even forget about the terrible album cover, which I’ve lovingly recreated in MS paint below.
And rightfully so, because this is a damn good album.
But quality concerns are replace by other anxieties in the more paranoid second track, andfor most of the rest of the album, there’s a whole new slate of anxieties to contend with.
Any album titled American Dream was bound to have a dark undercurrent given the current climate , and by the time a group vocals shout, “resisting other voices” over a cowbell-infused dance groove it’s clear that the mellow opener was a bit of a fake out.
Aging, dying, reconciling a shared human condition with wildly disparate points of view and a general malaise creep in from around the edges.
Of course, Murphy first broke through with “Losing My Edge”, so if anyone can make those themes sound like a party, it’s him.
And he does just that by employing tricks honed over the past three albums,
“Tonite” is a robotic Daft Punkian jam that bluntly and positively addresses mortality in its first minute. It’s “Losing my Edge” taken to its logical conclusion and crossed with a hefty dose of “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” and a dash of “You Wanted a Hit” sneer.
“Change Yr Mind” is a depressive “Us V Them” that doesn’t sacrifice much in regards to beats per minute. It adds some interesting screeches to the classic LCD click-track thing with lyrics about being a shut-in, and has a familiar misspelling in the title.
“How Do You Sleep” is a 9-minute epic that starts slow and adds layers a la “All of My Friends” but those layers end up including a synth line that works its way into your bones like “Dance Yrslf Clean”.
“Emotional Haircut” is the best possible version of the “Drunk Girls” model of LCD Soundsystem song. It’s a guitar spazz built around a dumb phrase, but I actually like it a lot more this time around.
Really, if I had to say a bad thing about American Dream, it’s that I think fans of the band will find it a bit self-referential.
“Oh, look, it’s LCD Soundsystem and they’re doing an LCD Soundsystem thing.”
But the synthesis of past ideas and tackling weighty topics is so deft and so good, it didn’t bother me.
It’s sort of the platonic ideal of LCD Soundsystem, and an hour-plus listen goes by really, really smoothly.
I’m not positive because I’ve only given the album two spins, but I don’t think there’s a track I would put in my personal top 3 LCD songs, but I think it is the LCD Soundsystem I could listen to the most in its entirety.
American Dream is superb. It’s everything I love about one of my favorite bands, but it’s a little darker, the commentary is more pointed and the portions are positively epic.