James Murphy returns.
James Murphy returns.
Photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya

Don't Blame LCD Soundsystem for the Farewell Tour

For those who were too young to experience the Brooklyn postpunk revival of the 2000s but are too old to unreservedly love mumble rap, the path to LCD Soundsystem fandom is a well-trodden one. In the late '00s and early '10s, you might have first heard "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" on the online radio stations of that era. More recently, it's possible you dove straight into the likes of "All My Friends" and "Dance Yrself Clean" to see why so much fuss was made upon the band's 2016 return from a five-year hiatus.

My gateway came in the form of LCD's 2006 release, 45:33.

A single, continuous 46-minute track, 45:33 was advertised as a workout supplement, with deliberately placed musical peaks and valleys to mimic the pace of an ideal jog. This claim was, of course, bullshit: Having partnered with Nike to finance and release the project, LCD Soundsystem mastermind and singer-songwriter James Murphy took the opportunity to craft a sprawling electronic megamix, the kind of composition that would never pass as a traditional studio album. Murphy's subterfuge paid off in spades: 45:33 is a sonic journey that winds through disco-inflected heartbreak, the most accurate depiction of ecstasy-fueled nostalgia ever committed to record, and eventually climaxes in a joyous extraterrestrial encounter.

45:33 is a marvel. It was my first encounter with LCD, and when I eventually discovered the track in 2009, it took my mind for a trip. Listening to it taught me that songs could be far longer than even the lengthiest 12-inch remix and didn't need a vocal hook to do the emotional heavy lifting. More than anything else, 45:33 taught me that music — specifically that of the dance variety — can make you absolutely freak the fuck out. This fact might have been common knowledge for ravers or anyone who grew up in a city like Miami, where dance culture and electronic music are all but inescapable, but to a teen trapped in suburban South Florida, it was a revelation.

Though it may not always be via 45:33, this experience of discovery and the unearthing of new aural possibilities is a widely shared phenomenon among the LCD faithful. Like Underworld and other crossover acts before it, LCD Soundsystem's lyricism bridged the gap between thrill-seeking club rats and sensitive indie kids. From his very first single under the LCD moniker, 2002's "Losing My Edge," Murphy has wed existential fears with life-affirming, block-rockin' beats in a way that few others have done before or since.

That's why LCD's 2011 dissolution and final show at Madison Square Garden was all the more disheartening. For all intents and purposes, Murphy was getting out at the top of his game, having just released some of his best material on LCD's This Is Happening the previous year. Lyrically and sonically, the group had always navigated the delicate balancing act of paying tribute to the self-important rock 'n' roll mythos while still regarding it with a distant, critical eye. Logically, it made perfect sense for Murphy to end the band with a celebratory kiss-off before it became a stale shell of its former self. Still, it was a bitter pill for fans to swallow.

Following a series of anonymously sourced stories and a discreetly released Christmas single, it was confirmed in January 2016 that LCD Soundsystem would reunite, with an intensive festival tour and a new album to follow. The internet, as is its wont to do, responded with a flurry of think pieces that alternated between exultations and tantrums, either celebrating the band's reemergence or bemoaning it. At the heart of these pieces lay the fundamental question: After loudly proclaiming you're going away forever, is five years too soon for a revival?

As someone who never caught them in their heyday; who has repeatedly listened to their latest album, September's American Dream; and who has seen them three times since their comeback, I say, no, absolutely not, get the fuck out of here with that nonsense.

In the years since that fateful goodbye, LCD Soundsystem's legend has propagated, aided largely by the band's absence. As anyone who had seen the band or has watched Shut Up and Play the Hits, the documentary accompanying LCD's then-final performance, could attest, the group puts on a raucous-to-the-point-of-ridiculous live show. Though most bands can be neatly categorized by their live character, LCD defies such characterization; for every moment of contemplation, there is an equal or greater moment of reckless abandon. Despite all of the handwringing about LCD's return shortchanging those who traveled to catch the Madison Square Garden show, there's no reason why, if possible, more people shouldn't be able to experience the utter euphoria that is simultaneously moshing and dancing to "Yeah" while MDMA courses through your veins and sweat surges from your every pore. (Speaking hypothetically, of course.)

It helps that the band's raison d'être for reuniting — new music — is just as compelling as its live performances. American Dream sees James Murphy reclaim his rightful place as dance music's resident philosopher king, musing about being middle-aged in a culture that cherishes youth, and mourning both friendships lost and heroes passed. Album single "Tonite" is a marked standout, offering a chugging piss-take and rebuttal to the shortsighted nihilism and fleeting hedonism tearing up the music charts.

LCD Soundsystem's performance at the James L. Knight Center will carry an urgency because it will be the band's first Florida show since reuniting. What's more, it will come slightly more than a year since the group was forced to cancel its appearance at III Points because of travel complications caused by Hurricane Matthew. In light of Miami's propensity for dancing and communal belligerence, to say nothing of the excitement nursed by the scores of Miamians who came of age to LCD's music, it's sure to be a warm welcome.

LCD Soundsystem. With Big Freedia. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 25, at the James L. Knight Center, 400 SE Second Ave., Miami; jlkc.com. Tickets cost $44.25 to $74.25 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.

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