american dream

american dream

James Murphy has always made things difficult for himself. By building a music career around the meta-narrative of being someone knowingly having a music career, every move he made was subject to scrutiny beyond that of a mere musician. Murphy painted himself into a corner—as did an artist from a previous generation: David Bowie. So it’s almost unbelievable that, before his death in 2016, Bowie told Murphy it was OK for the LCD Soundsystem mastermind to reform the band a mere five years after its much ballyhooed “final show” at Madison Square Garden. Following his mentor’s advice, LCD played its first reunion show not long afterward. But fans would have to wait until 2017 for LCD’s comeback album, american dream. By then, Murphy had lost several musical heroes, including Bowie, Leonard Cohen, and Alan Vega of Suicide (a band name-checked on the first LCD song, “Losing My Edge”). When american dream was finally released, Murphy told interviewers that he’d imagined Cohen doing a “spoken word bit” on the song “Black Screen” (ostensibly a tribute to Bowie) mere days before the 82-year-old Cohen’s passing. Clearly, time was slipping away. Also slipping away: The 2000s indie-dance scene that had once viewed Murphy as a leading star. Sure, LCD Soundsystem’s beloved back catalog could sell out concerts until the end of time. But Murphy was no longer a scenester darling—a point he addresses on american dream’s “I Used To,” which finds him singing, “I used to dance alone of my own volition.” The album’s “Emotional Haircut,” meanwhile, finds Murphy ignoring the 2000s altogether: With its intertwined guitar and drum exchange, the song recalls the early-1990s American post-hardcore scene that had chewed up and spit out Murphy early on in his music career. To quote Simone de Beauvoir, a philosopher often linked to none other than Bowie: “If you live long enough, you'll see that every victory turns into a defeat.”

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