“… now you see it’s sucking you in!”
I found James Murphy’s first album a complete turn-off: the studied cool, the nods and winks to oblique musical references, the ‘tongue-in-cheek’ lyrics. LCD Soundsystem has even been described as dance-punk nostalgia for music journalists. The in-jokery and general calculated irony seemed like cold artifice, dispassionate. The Sound of Silver is a more refined beast that finds Murphy honing his sound into something with greater permanence and sincerity, but still tops its predecessor for funk and inventiveness.
The opener, Get Innocuous, is a fantastic piece of electro house in the mold of Underworld, embellished with Bowie-esque vocal contortions. My favourite track on the album, it out-does labelmate The Juan MaClean at his own game. ‘Time to Get Away’ recalls the agitated white funk of Talking Heads while single ‘North American Scum’ is punk flavoured disco, all angular riffs and poke-in-the-eye lyrics. Both are sublimely catchy are give evidence to Murphy’s growing stature as a songwriter. ‘Someone Great’ is hypnotic electro-pop not dissimilar to some Junior Boys or Hot Chip, but poignant in its evocation of loneliness and loss. ‘All My Friends’ builds on layered Philip Glass-style piano loops into something as epic and grandiose as classic U2 and as bittersweet as New Order. Here James Murphy sounds more impassioned and intense than ever before, roaring like Julian Casablancas over Peter Hook-esque basslines. The album’s centrepiece, it finds Murphy full of regret: “you spend the first five years trying to get with the plan, and the next five years trying to be with your friends again.”
‘Us Vs Them’ starts engagingly with its cowbells, reminiscent of the last album highlight ‘Too Much Love’, before outstaying its welcome at the seven minute mark. ‘Watch the Tapes’ opens with some abrasive in-studio sloganeering, before the call and response shouting subsides into a Velvet Underground-cum-motorik disco hyrbrid. The title track is a gorgeous drift of come-down electro in the mold of The Juan McClean’s ‘Dance with Me’, while the Hot Chip-esque closer ‘New York I Love You’ is bitter-sweet poem to the city that affords Murphy a cathartic rocking-out at the climax. With more hooks and heart than its predecessor, the Sound of Silver is shaping up to be one of the best albums of the year.