Redundancy vs Results: LCD Soundsystem and Liza Minnelli

LCD Soundsystem – american dream

“Six steps back,” James Murphy shouts at the beeps and electronic gurgles in “how do you sleep?” To call it a moment of self-recognition would flatter him. Perhaps he suspected this project — the first under the name that made him beloved by students in college radio, aging New Order fans, and anyone between — might be a farrago.

On their first album since the early Obama era, Murphy and a steady crew of collaborators, among them the excellent Nancy Whang, stretch a dozen slight tunes into jams of uneven power. The best is “change your mind,” a chugger indebted to David Byrne’s guitar work on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts‘ “America is Waiting.” Importantly, “change your mind” is less than five minutes long. The recycling of ideas may charm LCD’s more fervent fans: despite a terrific bass line (the album has a few terrific bass lines, to be fair), nothing on “call the police”  sounds felonious, much less like a misdemeanor; the buzzing synth from “Someone Great” interrupts the glass-smooth pace of “how do you sleep,” an otherwise “dark” and insistently ominous trance-trudge centered on the lines “You warned me about the cocaine/Then dove straight in.” Murphy’s own “Station to Station,” perhaps his generation’s.

A final point. To immerse in his music is to reckon with the extent to which art defines our experiences: Murphy knows about the horrors of cocaine from songs about the horrors of cocaine. I understand. Queer men and women like yours truly have long looked at novels and songs for education, self-definition. But education and self-development require the absorption of influences into newer shapes, with originality not a prerequisite. Over the course of four albums in fifteen years, Murphy has come up with seven or eight bangers, and that’s enough. I don’t demand fecundity from artists — Bronski Beat only needed “Smalltown Boy.” I don’t blame him for releasing american dream. He’s earned a number one album; he’s earned the right to cash in on a redundancy of an album.

Liza Minnelli – Results

Fans of Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant must deal with their extra-curricular projects, of which their only album with Liza Minnelli remains the best.  I’ll go further: suffused with fear and trembling, as theatrical as Tallulah Bankhead, Results is the quintessential Pet Shop Boys album. It’s back in print in an edition loaded with several thousand remixes. Even two years ago an American publication wouldn’t have accepted a pitch for an 800-word review; Pitchfork did. The review is one of my more fully realized efforts.

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