Album Review: LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

Every now and then a song comes out that defines a time, a feeling. It redefines what every considers the sound of the time. It messes with genres, starts scenes and starts nightclubs. It starts labels and DJs and bands. In 2002 when James Murphy released 'Losing My Edge' under the guise of LCD Soundsystem it was a call to arms. Self deprecating it may be, but it was also a sideways swipe at all those continually attempting to re-package and re-hype cool. It was a full stop on Electroclash and the start of something new, more intellectual yet at the same time less considered, more vital and raw.

LCD Soundsystem's first eponymous album was never, ever going to fully satisfy. Whilst it was, considered in the right light, a superb album, it almost seemed to lack a little vision. Whilst good by most bands standards, tracks like the Beatles-esque 'Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up' just felt like they lacked the balls displayed on earlier cuts like 'Beat Connection' (to this day possibly the best LCD Soundsystem track).

Sound of Silver is a different beast. Born out of the renewed enthusiasm Murphy developed whilst constructing his 45:33 piece for Nike from the opening stabs of 'Get Innocuous' Sound of Silver is instantly more ambitious, less content with replicating, more concerned with invention. Driving synth lines encircle Murphy's multi-layered vocals to create an irresistable groove by the time Nancy Wang's vocals kick in... "You can normalize, don't it make you feel alive". What is built must someday collapse and as such 'Get Innocuous' melts away into a torrent of bass and distortion, with a bassline somewhat similar to 'Losing My Edge'.

'Time To Get Away' is angular and funky, like Prince and Talking Heads in one convenient package. With fantastically ramshackle percussion it is also exceptionally well produced.

First single 'North American Scum' is in your face, a diatribe on what it's like to be an American band on tour in the modern world. It shows Murphy's increasing lyrical maturity and is at once insightful and funny.

Based around a portion of the aforementioned 45:33, 'Someone Great' is undoubtedly Murphy's most emotionally resonant recording to date. Washes of acid, synthesizers and a glockenspiel merge to create something epic in scale yet shamelessly modern in sound. Lyrics that deal with loss and confusion cannot help but raise the hairs on the back of BlackPlastic's neck... "I wish that we could talk about it, but there... That's the problem". It may take a few listens to truly appreciate but as the electronics gradually build and engulf the subject matter of the song you cannot help but realise this is a man who has made his most important track to date. "There shouldn't be this reign of silence, but what are the options when someone great is gone?"

'All My Friends' is another departure. Less electronic than anything else on the album so far it rides a beautiful kraut rock piano line that continues throughout the whole song. Distorted guitars slice in and out whist Murphy waxes lyrical about that universal sense of not quite knowing what you're doing with your life. "You spend your first five years trying to get with the plan and the next five years trying to be with your friends again..." he yells. As with 'Someone Great', the beauty of 'All My Friends' is the way it combines absolutely ball-achingly fantastic melody and production with lyrics that not just sound cool but actually mean something. To see this song live would be something very, very special.

At eight minutes and tweny-nine seconds, 'Us v Them' is the longest track on offer. A throbbing post-punk rant against, well, whoever. More reminiscent of some of the best material from LCD's first album and early singles, 'Us v Them' is still great. A soundtrack to quit your job to on a sunny day.

'Watch The Tapes' is in and out, cut and shut post-punk funk. It sounds unstoppable and it probably is. Just when it's arrived with a lovely stripped-back percussion wig out it ends, giving way to...

'Sound of Silver'. The title track is possibly the most minimal track here. Featuring a simple vocal refrain repeated throughout its 7-minute plus duration 'Sound of Silver' is almost an instrumental with words. Lord knows what it's about... The music itself? Silver it does sound, piano riffs fall from space, clicks and high-hats drift by, Murphy's voice turns into an instrument itself. This is pure abstraction, more like 45:33 than anything else here... Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.

And so to album closer 'New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down'. It's been discussed on these pages before but by God is this a good track. It may be less experimental than everything else here, essentially this sounds like the greatest track Bowie never made, but it is still a departure for LCD Soundsystem and it is done so well. Murphy intelligently dissects post-millennial NY, critiquing what the city has become from the point of view of someone utterly besotted with the city. Like The Velvet Underground's 'Heroin' it sounds like an elegant love song to a woman impossible to live with yet impossible to live without. Indeed perhaps on some levels it is... When Murphy wails "Like a death of the heart, Jesus where do I start? But you're still the one pool where I'd happily drown..." BlackPlastic could almost break down and cry.

Sound of Silver is already not getting the attention and reviews it deserves from the mainstream press. Here is an album so well structured and considered it undoubtedly deserves a spot within your collection. It will make you want to dance, break stuff, cry, make music and it just might change your life.