LCD Soundsystem - American Dream Review
Returning after their heavily publicized and momentous break up seven years ago, synthpop and post-punk revival darlings LCD Soundsystem return upon the wishes of a dying David Bowie. It’s an odd tale for sure, especially given the amount of promotion and financial gain that was made off of LCD Soundsystem’s final show and subsequent documentary and five LP vinyl release recording of the show. It’s hard to reconcile the band’s return with just how perfect the band’s departure and discography was, with fans and music critics alike wondering if American Dream was really worth breaking open the glass on this particular exhibit from the Indie Hall of Fame. Well... no. No it was not.
What American Dream makes abundantly clear about LCD Soundsystem that might not have been as obvious before is that they were a success because of the culture and the time period during which they released their acclaimed records. LCD Soundsystem was so important and such a vital part of counterculture in the 2000s because they not just embraced their oddities, they purposefully went out of their way to translate and update the musical cultures of the 1980s like post-punk and synthpop that were home for so many people who felt they did not fit in. LCD Soundsystem was not just part of the post-punk revival: they picked the torch up right where The Cure and Depeche Mode laid it down in the 90s.
American Dream lacks the passion and excitement that came with their cultural importance in the 2000s. Instead, James Murphy and company prefer to fully adopt the sound of their inspirations rather than attempting to push the genres forward in a way relevant to the modern musical landscape. There is not a single track on American Dream where the listener won’t hear a song and think, “Wow, this sounds like a David Bowie/Talking Heads/New Order song,” and then at the song’s conclusion think, “Wow, David Bowie/Talking Heads/New Order would have done a much better job at making that song interesting.”
Granted there is nothing wrong with paying homage, especially with the passing of Bowie last year, if the actual music is up to snuff or carries some lyrical theme relevant to the 2010s. But frankly, LCD Soundsystem fail at the first criteria and only safely passes on the second. Whereas LCD Soundsystem’s repetitive and dense tracks in the past benefited from grooving synths and punchy bass lines, American Dream stretches the most basic loops over the course of five-minute plus songs. It’s as if LCD Soundsystem thought they could get away with tracks that sound like high schoolers messing around in Garageband with Apple Loops because the album is well produced.
Lyrically, Murphy returns with his same anti-establishment message that was poignant during the 2000s. But when the establishment is now Donald Trump and the decaying Republican Party, being anti-establishment is not as edgy or unique as it once was. Murphy certainly is more mature on the album than on past records, but his wordplay fails to capitalize on his new perspectives on life.
The above criticisms are not to say that the album is bad: it is just so incredibly by the numbers for LCD Soundsystem that it lacks any creative spark. Moments like “emotional haircut” and the second half of “how do you sleep?” stand out as songs that could have stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the band’s best material, but the despondent production choices robs them of the fun vibrancy that gave LCD Soundsystem their unique edge.
It leaves the album feeling inoffensive. It does not do enough new to really warrant bringing the band back together, but is not so bad that you can critique it beyond saying, “They have done better in the past.” American Dream feels like it is just a small enough portion of what made LCD Soundsystem so beloved to give their fans a small fix during their withdrawal rather than a definitive ending more conclusive than 2010’s This Is Happening.
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