LCD Soundsystem

It’s kind of a stretch to connect James Murphy’s most recent dismissal of an LCD Soundsystem reunion with the release of “Get Lucky“, which happened within a few days of each other, but it’s still worth noting. After all, it has now been seven years since Murphy waited “seven years and fifteen days” (another reference from a self-consciously referential band, this time to German trance outfit Groove Coverage’s “7 Years and 50 Days” from the year before) to play Daft Punk at his house party. Even if Murphy says, once and for all, that his band will not be returning to keep partying with the guests — “the band are just friends and we make things together and eat food together, and STILL ALL GO OUT AND DO THINGS, just not all together as LCD” — we’re still living in the house that LCD Soundsystem built.

“I think they’re a great signifier because they manage to be genreless rather than something really specific … They are like a band and they are DJs; they do song-style songs and techno songs; they do dark stuff and pop crossovers,” Murphy once said in an interview. He was talking about Daft Punk, but he may as well have been referring to the musical bastardization he’s been honing since he started spinning Delta 5, Iggy And The Stooges, and Liquid Liquid with musical partner and DFA co-founder Tim Goldsworthy at LES parties back in 2000. LCD Soundsystem transcended this divide between song-style songs and techno songs even further by combining dance and punk; the point of “Daft Punk” was the incongruity of the techno legends playing at the kind of basement show Murphy would have attended in his youth, as if Deadmau5 played a show at 285 Kent today.  

In her excellent piece on the 10th anniversary of 2002′s “Losing My Edge” (the song that bumped LCD Soundsystem into the spotlight almost because Murphy feared he was being pushed aside), Puja Patel points out, “The growing acceptance of once-alternative and underground dance cultures into the pop arena is an entire conversation unto itself.” Murphy addressed this growing acceptance when he wrote that song (even though he was talking about Brooklynites with “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties” while Patel in this instance is referring to EDM’s incursion into Top 40) but those new members of the underground dance culture became LCD’s target demographic. Just three years later, with the release of LCD Soundsystem, he was back in his DJ booth pedestal, still playing Daft Punk even though everyone else was, too. “I’ll show you the ropes, kid,” he says, by way of defense.  

Murphy also held his own on the dance-as-rock-as-pop conversation, striking a thrilling new relationship between four-on-the-floor euphoria and the weariness (and wariness) of a reluctant rock star that used to be in ’90s noise bands. By the time This Is Happening was released in 2010, the balance had shifted somewhat. “We won’t be your babies anymore,” he sneers on “You Wanted a Hit.” Murphy had become precious to a devoted audience, and even though he’s always been enormously appreciative of his fans, there were still parts of that idolatry that didn’t agree with him. “I don’t want to be a famous person,” he told interviewer and writer Chuck Klosterman in Shut Up And Play The Hits, last year’s documentary about the end of the band and their final show at Madison Square Garden. “I like riding the subway, I like eating food. I like being a normal person.” Still, he wonders, did he do the right thing ending LCD?

Murphy’s Facebook post a year later makes it clear that he still seems to think so. Maybe I’m a perpetual optimist, but as the recent glut of reunion tours shows, there will always be a market for nostalgia (for music “unremembered” or otherwise) should Murphy choose to stage a reunion. As we wrote about The Last Waltz a couple weeks back, Shut Up And Play The Hits was functionally the end of LCD Soundsystem, even though on camera the members of the LCD family, unlike the Band, didn’t seem ready to quit being musicians together. So until they decide to quit this nonsense instead and re-form, here are their 10 best songs.

10. “45:33″ (From 45:33, 2006)

Before LCD Soundsystem launches into Part 2 of this six-part epic on Shut Up And Play The Hits, Murphy tells Klosterman, “I’ve never gone to a show and loved it without believing something about the people who are doing it, whether it’s a belief I carried in and was confirmed by their performance or they got me straight from the performance, if I didn’t know them.” Seeing Reggie Watts losing his shit scatting onstage in an FU T-shirt did that for me. This song is the first iTunes exclusive: LCD wrote it for Nike, who commissioned LCD to write music for people to run to. Interspersed with Sound Of Silver instrumentals, “45:33″ builds to a sprint with an understated Nile Rodgers guitar line, classically disco keyboard stabs, and whispers of “Shame on you!”


 

9. “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” (From Sound Of Silver, 2007)

It’s hard to tell who’s the wet blanket here: the city, James Murphy, or Nancy Whang’s funereal piano chords. “Your mild billionaire mayor’s convinced he’s a king,” he sings, as true then as it is now. In her aforementioned article, Patel also noted that the great thing about “Losing My Edge” is that everyone can relate to it, and the same thing goes for “New York I Love You,” a fitting closer for Sound Of Silver and their last show. When the piano starts up again after those interminable silences, it serves as both an explosion of frustration (at a barely missed G train at 2 a.m., say) and of exultation at the way Manhattan looks from the Williamsburg Bridge at night.

8. “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” (From LCD Soundsystem, 2005)

This was LCD Soundsystem’s most successful song, earning a Grammy nod and reaching No. 29 on the UK charts. It’s not hard to see why. Murphy knows how to throw a rager, from the opening “OW! OW!” and gnashing hi-hats to cowbells and making sure to move the furniture to the garage. Beneath all the bravado, however, there’s a hint of that old insecurity — what kind of 35-year-old gets 15 cases of beer, a bus, and a trailer for a bunch of kids? Plus, hasn’t he been playing Daft Punk for like a decade already? As always, Murphy hedges his bets with razor-sharp tongue-in-cheek lines (“There’s a fist fight brewing at my house/ Because the jocks can’t get in the door”).  

7. “I Can Change” (From This Is Happening, 2010)

After sequestering himself in the studio, Murphy wrote lyrics so vulnerable that he had to leave the room when he asked Pat Mahoney to listen. When Murphy returned, Mahoney gave him a hug. And really, anyone would want to take Murphy into their arms after a line like “I can change if it makes you fall in love.” The juxtaposition between electronic chirps and a two-note bass line sounds like the two voices of a lover’s quarrel that Murphy narrates. Rumors that he and his wife split around the time he wrote “I Can Change” are false, but that doesn’t change the song’s emotional truth. “Tell me a line,” he says, even as he doles them out in spades, as if hoping at least one of them will work.  

6. “You Wanted A Hit” (From This Is Happening, 2010)

“We both know that’s an awful line, but that doesn’t make it wrong,” Murphy says at one point in “You Wanted a Hit.” It could be interpreted as a response to “Tell me a line,” which comes directly before; despite that parallel, “Hit” instead looks to address the industry frustrations that played a part in LCD’s demise. “You wanted a hit/ But maybe we don’t do hits,” he sings after the sheets of synthesizers fall away like the dream of making it big, revealing the simmering handclaps of a riot and a low, stalking guitar line. It actually recalls LCD Soundsystem’s “Tribulations”, an icy synth-pop track that was also one of the first tracks to blur the line between personal and political themes (“Get your payments from the nation”).  

5. “Dance Yrself Clean” (From This Is Happening, 2010)

The frustratingly radio-unfriendly “Dance Yrself Clean,” on the other hand, may as well have been written as a merry “fuck you” to the industry archetypes Murphy addresses on “You Wanted A Hit”. The verses cruise at a low volume for minutes at a time, faking out the first few choral builds with a twittering flute instead of the crashing beat we’ve come to expect. When the song finally splits its seams with a sudden uptick in loudness and percussive force for the chorus, though, it’s almost worth endlessly twiddling the volume knob for most of the song’s eight minutes. Plus, there’s the Muppets music video, which is one of the best music videos ever made.

4. “North American Scum” (From Sound Of Silver, 2007)

By this point, the cowbell clangs and organ buzz that set off “North American Scum” have become instantly recognizable as the anti-Pledge Of Allegiance. Whether you listened to it first on one of NPR’s indie workout playlists or blasted it in defiance of the noise complaints that shut down your house party, “North American Scum” is one of the finest anthems of our generation. As the guitar that rattles like a malcontent in the background bursts to the forefront of the chorus, you can’t help but feel your heart swell at being a goddamned American.

3. “Losing My Edge” (From Losing My Edge, 2002)

As mentioned earlier, Murphy wrote “Losing My Edge” after hearing club DJs playing music he assumed only he knew about. Against a backing beat Change,” additional vocal loops crowd around Murphy as he states matter-of-factly, “I’m losing my edge,” slipping off the edge of the beat to reinforce the point. By the end, he’s resorted to desperately listing bands like a barfly recounting past conquests, and the song closes out on one last nyah-nyah-nyah courtesy of Nancy Whang: “You don’t know what you really want.” It’s just ironic that, more than a decade later, it’s actually LCD’s frontman who doesn’t seem to know what he really wants. And maybe that was intentional: As Klosterman asks in Shut Up And Play The Hits, “When you start a band, do you imagine how it will end?”

2. “Someone Great” (From Sound Of Silver, 2007)

“Someone Great” is a bit of a sleeper hit. That tell-tale ticking beat originally showed up about nine minutes into “45:33,” peeking out from behind the tail end of Part 2. Many of LCD’s songs are nested within each other like Russian dolls, and “Someone Great” feels, again, almost like the aftermath of gauntlets thrown down on “I Can Change.” “To tell the truth I saw it coming/ The way you were breathing/ But nothing can prepare you for it/ The voice on the other end,” he sings as the continual glow in the background pulses in like pain from a new wound. It also fits song’s temporal setting: early in the morning, when everything that happened still seemed like a dream and it still hurts to open your eyes.  

1. “All My Friends” (From Sound Of Silver, 2007)

In an interview with The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones, Murphy said of what is widely regarded as his best song, “I hated the song. I thought it was too poppy, and I was embarrassed.” Definitely one of the more romantic songs LCD has ever made, “All My Friends” is full of pseudo-aphorisms, no regrets, and the steadily chugging rhythm of a tour bus’s wheels. At times, the weary nostalgia and chordal progressions are even reminiscent of New Order’s “ Ceremony” (even the spectre of death is there). Murphy does earnest as well as he does satirical, and the takeaway from “All My Friends” — the call and response of “Where are my friends tonight?” “If I could see all my friends tonight” — feels very true in light of Murphy’s Facebook message emphasizing the lasting quality of LCD’s friendship, if not necessarily their making music together.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify.

Comments (97)
  1. *scrolls to the bottom to make sure “All My Friends” is #1*

  2. hard to disagree with this one. but even though it’s a little generic even by murphy’s own admission, i feel like tribulations should’ve made it.

  3. All I Want?

  4. I always really really liked “Get Innocuous,” dunno if it beats anything on this list for me, maybe “You Wanted a Hit.”

    Also I can’t adequately express how fucking happy I am this isn’t a slide show.

  5. was so ready to deploy this gif on what would surely be a characteristically off-base “10 best songs” list:

    but this one actually makes sense. and you know what? it’s not nearly as fun as those batshit animal collective/deerhunter/etc lists.

  6. agree with the first three but, where is home?

  7. the fact that “Us V. Them” does not appear anywhere in this list means this list is wrong.

  8. Can’t tell if I’m being trolled by a completely reasonable top 10 Stereogum list.

  9. Everything makes sense but “You Wanted A Hit”, which seems totally out of left field. Among This is Happening tracks I would replace it with “Home” or “All You Want”, and there are plenty from the first two albums that are significantly more memorable as well.

  10. Yr City’s a Sucker.

    Good list though.

  11. i think it’s pretty ballsy to have 45:33 as a single song kind of and to have it on here. but hell, it’s fucking incredible, so no argument. but come on: someone great is their best song. the second the BOW BOW i get goosebumps and i have to crank it. it’s just reflex at this point.

    also, us v them should be on there.

  12. Waaayyyy too light on the self titled double disc. Yeah(crass version) has always been a personal fav. Beat Connection, Never as Tired as When I’m Waking Up…

  13. “Home” over “You Wanted A Hit”.
    “All I Want” over “I Can Change”.

    Everything else – well done.

  14. Initial Reaction: “Oh God…”

    The top 3 is correct as far as I can tell. “Someone Great” into “All My Friends” is the greatest moment in the LCD Soundsystem discography.

    But then “North American Scum” at #4 ? I know it was technically the single that really shot him out there and made the band name better known… but I don’t think it’s better than “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” (as long as we’re talking about “singles” from his albums).

    Then “Dance Yrself Clean” — I realize this will be an unpopular opinion, but this is how I feel. First off: “Get Innocuous” >>>>> “Dance Yrself Clean”

    Harley even outlines a lot of the reasons I dislike DYC: “…may as well have been written as a merry “fuck you” to the industry archetypes” OR as a direct fuck you to me as a listener. It does tick on for a few minutes, THREE WHOLE MINUTES and the result DOES have you twisting the volume knob throughout the song: “…it’s almost worth endlessly twiddling the volume knob for most of the song’s eight minutes” almost, but not for me.

    I’d probably be more forgiving of “Dance Yrself Clean” IF THE SAME GUY didn’t make “Get Innocuous”. THAT’S an intro track right there! That’s a song that will actually let me dance from the get-go because it’s your classic slow build. Plus no lyrics off the bat, just that sexy dance beat sinking into my skin. So yeah, had James not ALREADY made a timeless intro track, I wouldn’t have felt DYC failed on so many levels. Hell, even in “Shut Up and Play the Hits” they edit that intro down to make it pop faster.

    Even after admitting my distaste for “This Is Happening”, even I can say “Home” should be on that list over “You Wanted A Hit”. That song always pissed me off as a center-piece. Talk about blue balls. Builds, and builds, and builds, and builds to… one minute of distorted guitar? Cool, yes, actually, I DID want a hit, jerk. But “Home” is a good song and I can’t even deny that one.

    45:33 is a hilarious addition and I don’t think anybody can step to that decision. How can you knock a 45 minutes song that’s actually terrific? All that being said, in the end, the two songs that should always be considered in the grand canon of “THE BEST” LCD Soundsystem songs are:

    “Tribulations”
    “Yeah (Crass Version)”

    So you missed two, not bad! Well, three if you take my opinion on “Get Innocuous” — but still, better list than most on this site.

  15. Agreeing with Runyon, I would have included “All I Want” or “Home” over “You Wanted a Hit”, beyond that I’m pretty much cool with it.

    I’m just waiting for RJC to hop in here and take a giant Velocipoo all over “is this it” which, having had extended conversations with him about it, I still don’t understand his problem with…

    • Hey I like “is this it” lol

      You can’t even get the album name right, POINT PROVEN lol

      • Even I think that comment is catty, this Raptor’s got claws!

        • When I sing along to “All My Friends” I think of you guys.

          So for my birthday this year my sister got me “This Is Happening” on vinyl, knowing all too well my thoughts on that album. My reaction was pretty priceless, just a dead stare and no sound. Probably the least amped I’ve ever been getting a free record.

          I think this section needs to take a note from Hartford above: Rename this whole “Best songs, albums, w/e” section “Potatoes Potatuhs” because honestly that’s all this is. happening. dammit.

    • Haha, my bad. This -> Is, Is -> This. I can feel my indie nerd balls shrivelling….

      I’m tempted to go on a non sequitur rant about how overrated I think “Is This It” is, but i don’t want the entire island of Manhattan throwing crumpled up deli sandwich paper at me….

      Make it rain, haters….

  16. No get Innocuous? booooo

  17. I can totally dig this list, I’d just have put “Home” somewhere on the list. “Home” is This is Happening’s “All My Friends”. Still, very, very good list. I miss LCD.

  18. I would put Someone Great #1, but otherwise this a solid list.

    although, where’s Tribulations? and Yeah?

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  20. There is not a song I hate to play on my radio show more than Dance Yrself Clean. There is not a song I love to play on my radio show more than Dance Yrself Clean.

    Sidenote: Where is Home? Underrated song of theirs.

  21. My dark horse pick would have been “Pow Pow.” I’m also a champion of “Us V Them.” For the most part, though, this list is okay.

    • Those are definitely two of my go to LCD tracks if I’m looking to get my freak on.

    • The list of best LIVE lcd songs would have been much different than this one. Us V Them, Beat Connection, Yeah(crass version) would probably make up the top 3 in some order.

    • I’d have Us Vs Them on this list too, I’ve never heard it talked about in the same breath as, say Losing My Edge, but I love it with a passion. Everytime they reach the final chorus, in my head I’m doing some Village People type dance, except instead of “Y M C A” I’m spelling “U V T”

  22. Note to self: My tastes are apparently much more in line with Harley Brown than with John Everhart (who did the Deerhunter list). I half expected to read this list and see maybe one or two of these songs actually on the list. My order might be different, but otherwise this list matches up with what I’d have on it.

  23. Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah…no?

  24. “All My Friends” is the best song ever written and I’m willing to physically fight anyone who disagrees.

    • Hm, would it still be fight worthy if I said that I really hate how that song is mixed? Specifically the piano part. Like, yes, it is a good song, and I like how the one take, no looping approach adds character to the piano bit, but for fuck’s sake, it’s way too damn distracting from the rest of the song to have a two note melody that goes on for six minutes or whatever be the loudest thing in the mix.

    • It’s easily my favorite song of all time. And that ain’t hyperbole

  25. Top 3 are undoubtedly right on.

    I would exclude “45:33″, “I Can Change”, “Dance Yrself Clean” and “You Wanted A Hit”, and then add “Pow Pow”, “Yeah (Crass Version)”, “Get Innocuous!”, and “All I Want”.

    But honestly, it’s LCD Soundsystem: So long as you include those first 3, you can include any other 7 and be technically correct — the best kind of correct. (Full disclosure: They are my favorite band. I am quite biased).

  26. This list is TAILOR MADE for my bitching. “North American Scum” – one of their worst songs – at number three?! No “Thrills,” “Tribulations,” “Yeah Yeah Yeah” or “Get Innocuous?!”

    With that said, still a pretty good list. But yeah, if you could make those changes, that would be great.

  27. Take out “You wanted a hit”, add in “yeah (crass version)” and this will be a flawless top 10.

  28. Wait, I forgot “Home!” HHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. Quite a decent list, but I think I’ll mirror the sentiments regarding “You Wanted a Hit.”

    I’ll tell ya what though…I could really use some “Disco Infiltrator” on this here list. Fo’ sho’.

  30. I’ve never had a proper introduction to LCD Soundsystem. So here we go!

  31. Where th f*** is “Pow Pow”?

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  33. Definitely not disagreeing with the number 1 choice

  34. Just kind of funny how a lot of choices for this band coalesce where the Deerhunter one was a much more unique take that went a different direction from the crowd.

  35. i’m completely ok with this list.

    I’m also a HUGE fan of their cover of ‘Jump into the Fire.’

    Also their other single ‘Freakout’ totally owns.

    And can we get some Nancy Whang love up in here? Her smooth delivery on Get Innocuous is one of the 10,000 reasons why that song should be on this list.

    God I miss them live. This band defined my 20′s in so many ways it hurts.

  36. There was no way to put both NY I Love You and Never As Tired so I accept that.
    I also accept that Pow Pow is maybe too left field even for LCD to make it.
    I would have liked for I Can Change to be higher though; it matches All My Friends as my favorite LCD song.
    A wonderfully done list.

  37. Personal lists, anybody? Mine is similar the stereogum’s, but:

    10. Daft Punk is playing at my house
    9. New York, I love you
    8. Get Innocuous
    7. Sound of silver
    6. All I want
    5. Losing my edge
    4. Dance yrself clean
    3. Home
    2. Someone Great
    1. All My Friends

    • 10. Drunk Girls
      9. Someone Great
      8. Home
      7. I Can Change
      6. Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
      5. Tribulations
      4. Yeah (Crass)
      3. Dance Yrself Clean
      2. Get Innocuous
      1. All My Friends

      That’s right, Drunk Girls. Don’t care. I dig it.

  38. Thank you for excluding Drunk Girls and boo for leaving out Get Innocuous.

  39. I don’t really like this list, but I love most of the songs, so whatever. I can’t really find the energy to argue against it. I just wanted to say that I have been listening to 45:33 on repeat since opening the link to this post…

  40. I’m not really on board with “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” and “North American Scum” – they serve a purpose, they’re catchy, but neither deserves a place on the list over “Yeah (Crass),” “All I Want,” or “Get Innocuous.”

  41. The list should be LCD Soundsystems best 20 songs…

  42. Good list, I really like “Tribulations”, I won’t complain

  43. Agreed with the concensus here that You Wanted A Hit is placed too high. I’d have Yeah (Crass Version) in its place.

    Also, no love for Movement? I was at a show on LCD’s final UK tour and when they played that song everyone just lost their shit and danced like no-one was watching (myself included)

  44. “Dancing Yrself Clean” is my #1. Few albums can start so great as This is Happening.

  45. …and I even had my “Stereogum, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” coment ready to go once I saw the headline.

  46. daft punk did not play at my house

  47. Aw man, and here all this time I was thinking that the line at the end of Losing My Edge was “We all know what you really want,” which was maybe slightly better with the samples with “shit” in them playing during that part.
    I guess I will also be the 1,000th person to say Get Innocuous! should be on this list. And I agree with the other person who mentioned Freakout/Starry Eyed…

  48. No ‘Home’ and ‘North American Scum’ at #4??? Really?

  49. When you weren’t looking somebody hacked in to your system and moved “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” down from #1 to #8.

    You might wanna fix that.

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