Sound Of Silver Turns 10
Can we talk about “All My Friends” for a minute — or, I don’t know, seven minutes and 42 seconds? I saw LCD Soundsystem in concert a couple times last year, and let me tell you, that song is beloved. Is there a more beloved song among indie rock duders and dudettes of a certain age, myself included? It’s so beloved among the indie rock duder/dudette demographic that this very website once published an essay by one of my fellow indie rock duders declaring it the best song of the millennium.
It’s rightfully beloved, I should clarify, before you begin to suspect that this will be some kind of contrarian LCD Soundsystem take that fails to recognize the brilliance of “All My Friends.” I mean, “All My Friends,” you guys:
The pianos! Around now, even if you didn’t press play, you are hearing the pianos from out of the corner of your memory. And even if you’d never dare utter the phrase “all the feels,” you certainly feel them when the pianos kick in. If not the pianos, you get swept up in the beat, or the bass, or that nifty little guitar part that comes in after the first verse. Or maybe it’s one of James Murphy’s lyrics about the cruel passage of time that does you in — “You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan/ And the next five years trying to be with your friends again,” perhaps? Or maybe you don’t cave in until that final, morbidly triumphant, “WHERE ARE YOUR FRIENDS TONIIIIIIIIIGHT?” But chances are somewhere along the way you fucking lose it.
Or at least I do. I lost it both times I saw LCD Soundsystem play it last year: first in a small Barcelona club, then a couple days later at a large Barcelona music festival, both times jumping and flailing and singing along with a degree of passion rarely stirred in me at rock shows anymore. You know how you can become numb to a song’s effect when you see a band live multiple times in a short span? How the magic tends to wear off with repeated exposure? It didn’t wear off. Both times, I felt the rush. I felt the tingles. I felt the feels.
“Losing My Edge” used to be the definitive LCD Soundsystem song. It was the world’s introduction to James Murphy’s rapidly aging hipster DJ shtick, his impeccable taste, and his undeniable songwriter’s touch. It’s a fabulous song, too, one that sounds great every time I return to it. It’s still the defining salvo for the first half of LCD’s run, a period when Brooklyn dance-punk culture was all the rage and this was more of a party-oriented, singles-driven project. Had Murphy stopped after LCD’s self-titled debut, we’d remember him for “Losing My Edge” first and foremost.
But Sound Of Silver — released 10 years ago this Sunday in the UK and a week later in the US — changed the nature of this band. It wasn’t obvious at the time, but looking back it’s clear that LCD’s second album initiated a shift that would carry through all the way to that 2011 farewell bash at Madison Square Garden: from singles to albums, from sarcasm to sentimentality, from the pursuit of cool to the pursuit of connection. Whereas LCD’s debut played more like a rad singles compilation, this was a fully realized statement, an album worthy of mention alongside masterpieces by Murphy heroes like David Bowie and Talking Heads. The wounded heart behind all that self-conscious posturing was laid bare, dissected across nine tracks that radically expanded LCD’s sonic universe while mostly banging hard as ever. It’s basically a perfect album, and “All My Friends” — its best song and glorious centerpiece — has become this band’s signature anthem.
There is so much to love about Sound Of Silver beyond “All My Friends,” though. You could write a whole book about it, as Ryan Leas did last year. “Someone Great,” for instance, does for painfully specific romantic fallout what “All My Friends” does for generalized platonic longing, channeling it into shimmering digital dots and loops that seem to echo into eternity. Silicon dreamscape “Sound Of Silver” mines the same krautrock records Radiohead ripped for “Kid A” to soundtrack Murphy’s epiphany that feeling like a teenager again is not necessarily life’s wisest pursuit. “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” breaks even farther from the LCD playbook, mourning NYC gentrification with swaying piano balladry and a theatrical guitar-rock finale. Again and again, Murphy wrestles with his dawning realization that holding on to some glamorized version of the past is a fool’s errand.
Still, his nostalgia didn’t go down without a fight. The moments of emotional rawness coexist with some of the finest dance-rock tracks in LCD’s catalog, songs that derive exhilaration from the same neuroses that color its somber moments. “Get Innocuous!” provides a twitchy jackhammer undercurrent for those same anxieties about the loss of vitality. That same love/hate relationship with New York works its way into the swaggering synth-rocker “North American Scum” — basically a “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” sequel, but one of those sequels that lives up to and even surpasses the original. The conflict between warring conceptions of New York manifests in a rhythmic tidal wave on “Us v Them.” Even the oft-forgotten “Time To Get Away” and “Watch The Tapes” are essential pieces of the puzzle, inspired and unlike anything else in LCD’s discography. It all combines to make Sound Of Silver itself an object of nostalgia, one nobody has to feel conflicted about loving passionately a decade later. Play it with your friends tonight — assuming you can still track them down after all these years.