“We’re all going to die someday, so you change your mind,” James Murphy responded to a fan’s concerns regarding LCD Soundsystem’s (LCD) 2016 reunion. This type of casual wisdom has defined the frontman’s work ever since the group’s first single “Losing My Edge’s” tongue-in-cheek jabs at hipster culture: “I hear everybody that you know is more relevant than everybody that I know.” Still, despite the dance-punk icon’s transparency regarding LCD’s return, the quick change of heart understandably inspires some skepticism regarding the group’s motivations. Only five years after his band’s triumphant Madison Square Garden send-off, the man who had called it quits because “it ha[d] all just gotten bigger than I planned” was back, headlining Coachella on a several million-dollar deal.
From the first synth notes of american dream, the fourth LCD album—and first since their reunion—it is obvious that Murphy has lost neither his ear nor his edge. “oh baby” is a beaming melancholic croon that somehow finds room to breathe as it drowns in synth excess. This dynamic 80’s-post-punk production quickly reveals itself as the album’s sonic through-line, with arrangements ranging from the echoing drums of “how do you sleep?” to the barrage of delayed guitars on “emotional haircut.”
On the lyrical side, highlights including “american dream” and “tonite” are loaded with gems such as “Look what happened when you were dreaming/And then punch yourself in the face,” which Murphy sings with his trademark poignancy and off-the-cuff delivery.
What truly separates this new release from its predecessors, however, is its cohesion. Insistently self-reflexive and obsessed with endings of friendships, love affairs, or lives, american dream sticks to its universal theme and specific sound to create what just might be LCD Soundsystem’s magnum opus.
In some way, maybe Murphy did sell out. But when the music is this good, the truth is, it doesn’t matter. And if your head is still in turmoil two years after the breakup, just put your headphones on and let the man himself remind you how easy it is to “change your mind.” You’ll surrender.