James Murphy wears his flawless, meticulously organized,
hipper-than-your record collection brazenly on his sleeve. He’s a DJ, so this is a matter of course. You expect as much from someone who makes a public display of his ability to amuse you with his records. What’s less obvious is that since Murphy paid such close attention to his favorite records for so long that he’s now learned how to emulate them perfectly as a songwriter. And, incredibly, his blatant thievery hardly stymied his ability to inject a facile feeling of forward-thought onto LCD Soundsystem’s self-titled debut in 2005.
On Sound of Silver, Murphy is even better at plundering his favorite records for ideas and making them sound up-to-the-minute, and in some cases, truly monumental. Murphy may hide behind inside jokes, blasÃ© irony and a deadpan impersonation of Mark E. Smith, but there’s real paranoia lying in wait, beneath the blips and the beats. The sentimentality of “Someone Great” is truly affecting, not just because of the genuine lyrics but also because of the patch he chose for the keyboard. The ghostly, elegiac synths perfectly capture the sense of loss Murphy laments without sounding cheesy. Murphy’s songs tend to run too long, but this is the bane of all dance-oriented music. I’d presume Murphy should know better, considering how many shelves “punk” and “post-punk” probably take up on his record wall. Even when they start to outstay their welcome, though, the overwhelming emotional impact of centerpieces like “All My Friends” is hard to ignore. It’s a sort of stream-of-conscious mid-life crisis, except replace a corvette and a comb-over with a trendy club, a pulsing beat, and neurotic fear of irrelevance. This album’s “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” is “North American Scum”, a wry post-punk anthem that plays into Murphy’s newfound strengths as a composer. His affinity for ESG, Bowie’s Low-era, New Order, and, of course, The Fall never sounds contrived or even as gratuitous as it should to anyone familiar with those bands’ oeuvres. Murphy’s skills have rounded out to the point that he might soon be better known for his tunes than his beats.