LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream is a comeback record obsessed with impermanence. The six years since the band’s colossal “final” show have been marked by death, falling outs, and the inevitable aches of aging. The result is a beautifully crafted album that brings to light a broad range of electronic and punk influences, all the while dealing with the notion of growing older, but not always growing wiser.
It’s only fitting the opener is a break-up song. “Oh Baby” creates a slow drum build-up leading into huge synths that would appear more suitable for a more energetic, higher-tempo track. Instead, the contrast of the synths with frontman James Murphy’s warm vocals recalls the haziness of waking up from a bad dream. Somber and bittersweet, the song is not a typical LCD song, proving the band isn’t necessarily married to their previous work.
The following track, “Other Voices,” is filled with trembling anxiety that helps maintain a frantic funk all throughout, recalling post-punk greats Talking Heads. This influence is even more pronounced on “Change Yr Mind,” which again channels David Byrne in Murphy’s vocal delivery. The track keeps a cool groove under sharp pressure, as it deals with Murphy’s anger at fans who protested LCD’s reunion. He laments “not being dangerous now” as he once was, signaling the burden of greatness that era-defining bands like LCD experience.
Self-awareness also runs high on the single “Tonite,” which plays on how the motif of “tonight” is constantly used in pop music to urge seizing the moment. What’s usually uplifting becomes a source of anxiety here: Sure, life is fleeting, but sometimes “it feels like forever”. The repetitive dance beat reinforces that push and pull of either seizing that moment or giving in to routine.
“Call the Police” has the same fire of “Tonite,” albeit with more of a punk influence. It addresses current political turmoil, questioning if the American dream is a hopeless fantasy. The guitars recall New Order, but the demand to eat the rich channels something more along the lines of Against Me!’s New Wave.
Released as a double single with “Call the Police”, “American Dream” is just as anthemic, but in the self-contained way that The National’s most desperate songs are. Murphy aches for a “place to be boring,” where he doesn’t have to justify a comeback or deal with whatever “tonight” might end up being. “American Dream” begs to know if dreams are even feasible when age takes its toll.
The spacious and somber “Black Screen” –written about the passing of Murphy’s mentor and friend David Bowie—ends the album similarly to how it began. It’s beautiful and ethereal, as though the sounds are beaming down from space. Murphy confesses to “being bad at people things,” feeling he’s not making the most out of our limited time on earth. There are also nods to how the digital age can create “ghosts”, admitting he finds it difficult to delete old emails from Bowie.
American Dream ends with James Murphy staring into the black screen that is the night sky, proving that even in the impermanence of life and of dreams, there are moments in between in which forever can feel tangible.
By Nazareth Izada