With all the recent track leaks, everyone knows that, yes, This Is Happening. If you trust ecstatic man-on-the-Tweet hyperbole, LCD Soundsystem’s third album is the record catapulting James Murphy to the moon, aka Sound Of Platinum. (Sorry, Greenberg soundtrack.) Of course, with those aforementioned leaks, you have the ability to call bullshit … or to back the buzz with hard evidence. As with all good dance parties, it’s essential knowing how the tracklist works from start to finish, though, so it’s probably best you listen to This Is Happening in its entirety without pause before casting judgment. The first thing you’ll learn from this exercise: Lead single, “Drunk Girls” is the collection’s weakest leak.
This Is Happening’s opener “Dance Yrself Clean” gets things going perfectly. The slowly volumizing call-to-feet suggests you laugh off the disasters, the mean friends, the jerks, and cut a rug instead: By the 3-minute mark, when the drums get to do their job, Murphy raises his voice (suggesting you raise your hands up), and things explode, you’re likely to take his advice. New York, sometimes I hate you, but here you’re picking me up…
It’s followed by “Drunk Girls,” which after a few spins is a bit of a dud on record, but fits its live surroundings well and ought to be helpful when the Girls Gone Wild franchise licenses it. The lull dissipates with the lusher/musically denser and more melodic “One Touch,” a busy/upbeat new wave-infused anthem that does the chant-along thing more convincingly: “One touch is never enough / people who need people to the back of the bus,” etc.
Murphy’s vocals are strong across the album. They can be a force — a dance drill sergeant or something. On “All I Want” he switches things up, blending them into the surrounding smooth, smeary cacophony to create an ’80s feeling introspective lighter burner. Recent live shower “Change” extends the romantic vibe (“turn on the light, make it easy for me”), but introduces some relationship difficulties: “Never change, this is why I fell in love” vs. “I can change, if it helps you fall in love.” Prom theme 2010.
After those more swooning/lovey bits, Murphy jacks into a slightly higher-gear with the talky clap-along/photo-snapping meta-”we don’t do hits” “Hit” and the now familiar Michael Musto-bait “Pow Pow” (“Advantages to both!”). The more insular, weirdo “Somebody’s Calling Me” is not the same thing as “Somebody’s Watching Me,” though it does play on the ubiquity of contact in his beloved digital age: “Somebody’s calling me to be my girl.” And she also texts him. The warping synth chorus (Murphy warbling along to a few in-the-red notes) and the more straightforward piano keys evoke Biz Markie with an iPhone … in the best way possible. All of this sets up the epic, highly percussive closer “Home.” It builds. The vocals seduce. It could go on for 30 minutes and you’d still be dancing…
It’s cliché to say, but This Is Happening arrives just in time for summer. Any summer. In more ways than one. As more momentarily hot bands flame out after a few months and bad invented genre titles, it’s nice to see Murphy’s longstanding project continually gaining momentum: In the warmer months of 2002, to most folks, DFA was the label that put out the Rapture’s “House Of Jealous Lovers” 12″; in 2010, it’s James Murphy’s imprint sans qualification. Eight years after he got the party started, the band he built to reflect his aesthetic, sound ideals, and recording strategies is operating at its highest peak. This Is Happening may or may not be the last album under the LCD moniker, but with it, Murphy’s shown again he can find endless permutations in what, admittedly, seemed like a pretty rigid formula all those years ago.
This Is Happening is out 5/17 via DFA/Virgin. Don’t forget non-album track “Love In L.A.” (Pony reunion 2040?)