LCD Soundsystem is essentially James Murphy, one half of the production team DFA who have become as towering a duo within their dance-rock corner of the musical world as other production pairs such as the Neptunes and Basement Jaxx.
DFA's grand achievement is making dance music for an indie-rock subculture typically too self-conscious for such a thing. With irony-free and openhearted concepts too scary for their audience to contemplate, DFA pairs the physicality of their music with snotty vocals that provide enough emotional distance to give indie-rock fans an entry.
But what's most compelling is how this strategy allows for a critique of itself, something best heard on LCD Soundsystem's cult 2002 singles "Losing My Edge" and "Beat Connection." The former pairs its electro bass-and-snare beat with the monotone whine of a vocal that mocks hipster obscurantism and identity crisis. As the groove gets more slinky and more active, the narrator grows more desperate and defensive. Even better is "Beat Connection," where a four-minute instrumental stretch driven by a rattling, insistent beat pulls the listener in physically before Murphy steps to the pulpit to admonish the limitations his congregation has imposed on itself.
These songs, along with last year's 20-minute 12-inch "Yeah" (think Fela Kuti for American rock-club regulars) and a couple of shorter tracks, make up the time-capsule-worthy second disc of LCD Soundsytem's eponymous debut, paired with a first disc of all-new material where Murphy seems to be trying to back away from his self-appointed dance-floor mission. The new stuff is more rock, more new-wave, and less interesting. The funk-forward robot-rock of the cheeky opener, "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House," portends more disco-punk detonations, but the rest of the record dabbles elsewhere: "Tribulations" grooves on a synth-based rhythm track you could have heard in the background of a John Hughes movie, while "Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up" and "Great Release" could be classified as art-rock. The result of the new/old pairing is pretty schizophrenic. Call the new record a disappointing B+ and the singles disc an easy A. -- Chris Herrington
DFA Compilation #2
Ten years ago, electronica hype launched an ill-fated invasion on indie-rock culture, leaving behind such barely remembered artifacts as marginal Mo' Wax releases collecting dust in college-radio record collections, rock-identified Matador Records' short-lived genre switch, and such idiotically named subgenres as "illbient."
Half a decade into the new century, indie and dance have come together again in the form of artists such as the Avalanches, Christian Fennesz, and Matmos --and the perhaps unlikely union is much stronger this time around. At the forefront of this happy marriage is DFA, the record label/production team of rock-reared James Murphy and electronic-music vet Tim Goldsworthy.
In transforming previously unremarkable retro-minded post-punk bands such as the Rapture and Radio 4 into dance-floor heroes (especially with the Rapture's 2002 underground-club smash "House of Jealous Lovers"), DFA established themselves among the most canny producers on the planet, and the three-disc Compilation #2, released late last year, is perhaps the most thorough testament to the duo's achievement.
The Rapture's infectious "Alabama Sunshine" is a flawless union of rock and dance. The featured Black Dice tracks are taken from more rhythmic moments, as opposed to the band's tedious catalog of uneventful improvisation. Black Leotard Front's "Casual Friday" is a Cinemax After Dark meets Office Space joke set to a live-instrument disco backing that disco-era demigod Nile Rodgers wishes he had penned. Murphy's own LCD Soundsystem is dependably ass-shaking and omnipresent. And when early-'80s no-wave legends Liquid Liquid show up with "Bellhead" to unite the two scenes, it's like the past 20 years never happened. n -- Andrew Earles