Alright, so we’ve eye-rolled aplenty over the whole ‘is-he-isn’t-he’ return of James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem. After all, when is a ‘final’ album ever truly that, especially for a man who clearly lives and breathes what he does? Fortunately, it’s an issue that barely registers on American Dream, an album so accidentally urgent that you’re unsurprised it lured him out of retirement.
It’s the industrial clockwork that first hits on oh baby (all songs lower case because why the fuck not). Synths echo around the room, and Murphy begins: “oh baby, you’re having a bad dream here in my arms”. It’s pretty hard not to immediately extrapolate it from the album title, or avoid the thought that millions of people must be thinking the same thing about their country. It turns out a legion of North American Scum are now all around James Murphy, and he’s at a loss at what to do.
So he does what he does best, and turns the anxiety of the mundane into low-key electronic bops that will do a lot to placate the die-hards. other voices could well be from any vintage LCD Soundsystem album, taking inspired Latin beats and adding wails of synth, screech, and anything else that Murphy can throw at it. It’s mad, it’s discordant, and yet somehow it works a treat, a feat that’s repeated on the equally canonical tonite.
Of course, while Murphy’s always been a decent hand at external view, there’s a nod to the personal on American Dream. i used to is unmistakably a nod to David Bowie in delivery, ramping things up to a more glam-rock level than we’re perhaps used to. Meanwhile the menacing beats of how do you sleep? form a strong foundation for something that’s ultimately a bit, well, meh – it’s an example of there being great ideas on paper that somehow lose their sheen in execution, mainly for the fact that they’re just not very enjoyable to listen to.
But those moments are few, as Murphy soars again on call the police and the dreamy optimism of the title track itself. Despite all his drama, that hope is largely what resonates through LCD Soundsystem right now (“dance out your complaints… find a place you can be boring, where you won’t need to explain”). It’s about making peace with your surroundings, embracing the fact that things are a bit shitty, that you’re a bit shitty, and that just getting by is an act of marvel in itself.
“I’ve just got nothing left to say,” sings Murphy on change yr mind, before adding: “I’m just too old for it now.” That’s resolutely not the case on American Dream; while it might not be the message he’s used to delivering, it’s still one that’ll be surprisingly relevant for all the LCD Soundsystem fans who have grown with him, who are more politically engaged as they realise more of the world they rebelled against is relevant to them. That’s not to say James Murphy is a square, but his American Dream and his worldview are much more tangible than ever before.