For a while, LCD Soundsystem was gone. Now, for a while, they’ve been back. After disbanding in 2011 with a massive “final” show and accompanying Chuck Klosterman–narrated documentary film, James Murphy and the crew officially announced their return on January 4, 2016, playing a number of shows, festivals, and more since. A pair of 2016 Easter Weekend warm-up shows before a big Coachella headlining set marked the official return, and the dancing clean of self hasn’t slowed down since. As they played their way into proper shape, appearing on Saturday Night Live, playing lengthy residencies, and releasing new singles, the LCD Soundsystem reunion felt real. They were back.
As back as LCD ever seemed to be—and those residency shows at Brooklyn Steel were pretty all-encompassing, from an experiential standpoint—the feeling was never as strong, or as complete, as the moment the needle dropped on “oh baby,” the first track on American Dream (the band’s much-discussed and anxiously-awaited fourth full-length studio record, out tomorrow). Prior to the album’s release, the band had already shared three singles—“call the police” and “american dream” came out after Murphy shared the stage with Chris Pine on SNL, and “tonite” only a couple of weeks ago—all of which are not only good but great songs, capturing everything that previously made the band so unique and exciting, and further expanding on those qualities.
But with “oh baby,” the expansion isn’t there, and, quite frankly, isn’t needed. From its slow starting tings to the effervescently pounded synths, it’s the best LCD song that you’ve never heard, even before Murphy sings a single note. And then he sings a note, and several more, and anyone who’s ever loved this band will fall in love all over again.
The aforementioned singles (“call the police,” “american dream,” and “tonite”), already great as standalone songs, somehow work even better in the presence of the rest of the album. “call the police,” in particular, is a triumph. The song fits in perfectly in LCD’s catalogue of fan favorites. When Murphy belts to open the song, it’s a sing-along waiting to happen: “We all, we all, we all, we all know this is nothing.” Sandwiched between the other two singles, “call the police” appears near the back end of the album’s 10 tracks; it sets the stage for the album’s conclusion, anchored by the guitar-heavy and tremendously-titled “emotional haircut,” before the moody, atmospheric, 12-minute “black screen” closes it out.
Other tracks throughout the album hit on familiar beats with fresh energy. “other voices” is structured in a way that brings “Too Much Love,” from the band’s self-titled debut, to mind, but the production, the cohesiveness, and the way everything fits together makes it feel new again.
In a nutshell, that’s what makes American Dream such a triumph—James Murphy is, and always has been, a complete and utter music nerd. You can tell from his history as a producer, from his history with DFA Records, from his stories in Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me In The Bathroom, from the backdrop of his massive record collection seen in Shut Up and Play the Hits, and from the endless excess of songs that so clearly influenced the music of his past, present, and future. James Murphy knew that his band has been gone for a while, and he knew the exact kind of record that LCD would need to release upon its return. With American Dream, he’s succeeded at doing just that.