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LCD Soundsystem, I love you but you’re bringing me down

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Someone great: LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.
Smith Galtney

This will sound like Internet hyperbole, but so far, LCD Soundsystem is my favorite band of the millennium. All the things I search for in music—good tunes, lyrics that strike a personal chord, the desire to trace influence and discover new sounds—LCD provides in abundance. Frontman/producer James Murphy is one of my heroes, on paper, at least. He’s a late bloomer who stumbled into greatness by writing disco songs about wanting to stay home. And any man who can work Warren Zevon’s “Nighttime in the Switching Yard” into a peak-hour DJ set deserves utmost thanks and praise.

So yeah, I’m an LCD fan. Absolutely. And yet, I’m starting to think they might also be the most annoying band in rock ’n’ roll history.

At the end of March, LCD reunited after a five-year hiatus to play two shows at Webster Hall in New York City. The band plays Coachella this weekend and next, and has a bunch of other festivals lined up after that. A proper tour and a new album will surely follow. That’s all great, right? Why wouldn’t I be psyched to have one of my favorite bands back and ready for action? Well, maybe it’s because that band spent roughly four years (three of them during that so-called “hiatus”) telling me they were going to disappear, and now they’re suddenly reuniting, and it’s all happened during the same White House administration.

While hyping LCD’s This Is Happening album in 2010, Murphy announced his early retirement while assuring it wouldn’t turn into “some big, dramatic ending.” Which is exactly what it became. There was the last tour, lots of farewell talk-show chatter, all leading up to a “funeral” at Madison Square Garden in the spring of 2011. A year later came Shut Up and Play the Hits, a concert documentary dutifully overhyped as “The Last Waltz for the electro-DJ-generation.” In 2014, a five-LP box set fittingly titled The Long Goodbye commemorated the MSG gig once again. As (brief) career exits go, even The Who and Jay Z bowed out with less fanfare.

Murphy hoped to chase other dreams, maybe write a novel (he hasn’t) or create a coffee line (he has), and no one should be surprised that he re-formed his band so quickly. How do you transition from making whole arenas dance to an isolated author’s life? Since the reunion got announced in January, responses have ranged from the acidic (“If You Tolerate LCD Soundsystem’s Manipulative Bullsh*t, You Deserve It,” read a Jezebel headline) to the humorous (“LCD Soundsystem Announce Plans to Break Up After Coachella,” read one for LA Weekly’s April Fools joke). The elegiac tone of Shut Up—a movie I loved—now flows like heavy malarkey. But Deadspin’s Rob Harvilla makes a good point: “If you think LCD’s gala resurrection is an eye-roller, let me politely suggest that the goofy bullsh*t Murphy would dream up to keep himself busy if he couldn’t play [his music] anymore would be far, far worse.” The world needs more LCD jams, less James Murphy wine bars and coffee beans.

Truth is, LCD has always been a giant, niggling paradox, an act that became the epitome of cool by mocking hipster politics. Even now, its fans still don’t really get the joke. As one concertgoer recently told The New York Times, “The way Stephen Sondheim is Mr. New York for a general audience, James Murphy is Mr. New York for a very niche audience.” Since Sondheim is hardly a populist and LCD now qualifies as “dad rock,” this quote is the funniest thing I’ve read all year. I hope Murphy writes a song about it.

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