One of the problems I’ve had with dance music is it’s utterly tied to the exact moment I first heard it. Once that moment has passed, I dutifully put it away and forget about it. Seriously: it’s been years since I’ve revisited Moby, Daft Punk, or Fatboy Slim, and if I ever did decide to spin them they probably sound so dated that I’d be tempted to bring them to a used record store and try to sell ’em back.
I don’t, of course, because even those memories of immediate bliss are worth more than the buck they’d give me for it. That is, if they’d want them back at all; the used bins seem fairly littered with enough copies already by those aforementioned artists.
So they sit, collecting dust, in my expanding collection that really could use a spring cleaning.
I’m fairly sure that James Murphy, leader of LCD Soundsystem, has an outrageously large record collection too, judging by the influences so blatantly apparent on that moniker’s debut album and on the sophomoric release, Sound of Silver.
While I thought some moments of the debut (notably, Murphy’s use of Mark E. Smith’s phrasing on “Movement”) were appealing, there were times in which I felt that it would end up right next to You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby or Play; great albums that would ultimately end up on my year’s “Best Of” list only to be forgotten completely at the end of the following year.
Sound of Silver not only sounds like it will end up on 2007’s “Best Of” lists but it also sounds like it has enough substance for it to be played for many years to come.
Part of the appeal is Murphy channeling an era when smart rock artists attempted (and succeeded) to make dance music. Specifically, there’s a ton of Berlin Bowie and Eno-produced Talking Heads going on in the mix, but he blends these obvious nods with a keen sense of not making the album sound too nostalgic.
To that point, Sound of Silver understands the romanticism of younger times doesn’t mean they were better times (“Makes you want to feel like a teenager / Until you remember the feeling of / A real life emotional teenager / Then you think again” – “Sound of Silver”). Indeed, if there’s a theme that’s felt throughout the album, it’s that James Murphy is getting older and he’s resigned himself to that hard reality. So while he may not want to actually re-live those times again, he sure as hell wants to create the same emotional connection that his own life soundtracks did for him while growing up.
“All My Friends” blends some wonderful motorik rhythms with some equally wonderfully musings of a man making one last stand against middle age. The character goes out for what may be a final night out on the town with the guys, kidding himself that he still has the same temperament and ideals that he did when he was younger. After suggesting that he could easily revert back to that lifestyle (“And if I’m suited to submission / I can still come home to this”), we know that, come Monday morning, he’ll be back on the morning commute in a fucking tie just like the rest of us.
“North American Scum” will most certainly get the nod as the most recognizable track. It’s a perfect blend of the apologetic feelings that a lot of Americans feel towards the rest of the world, thanks to some questionable decisions of our elected officials. Yet, it also manages to perfect solidify our country’s general apathy about anything relatively weighty (“throw a party ’til the cops come in and bust it up”). And why not? Murphy admits that “in the end [we’ll] make the same mistakes all over again,” so fuck world opinion, let’s party!
The one track that manages to place Sound of Silver‘s place at the level of an extraordinary album might be with the closer “New York I Love You.” While Bowie’s krautrock blueprint was used for much of Silver, he uses Bowie’s work with producer Tony Visconti as a guide for this emotional end piece. It’s a brilliant move that not only benefits the song, but it completely ties Sound of Silver as a fully attained album.
Perhaps the inclusion of “New York I Love You” also explains why I feel a deeper bond for it than any Daft Punk album. That song (along with several other tracks) manages to place it beyond the normal dynamics of what typically constitutes a dance record. It’s more than that, much in the same way that Talking Heads’ Fear Of Music was more than just a “new wave” record.
The Sound of Silver is a release that won’t tarnish over the years, and the fact that you can shake your ass to it only makes it that much better.