Saturday, July 24, 2010

R.I.P., LCD Soundsystem

When I heard that LCD Soundsystem are breaking up after they finish the tour in support of recent release This is Happening, I wasn't sure how to react. I was disappointed, a little confused, sure, but I was alright with it. Leader of the pack James Murphy decided the band were bigger than he wanted, and he's pulling the plug while he can still ride airplanes unmolested. Fair enough. Sound of Silver is a great record, one of my favourites, and the more recent This is Happening is, while not quite an equal, certainly a great release. So there was at least that feeling you get when we lose a band we admire. But there wasn't any sadness, really.

I hear stories about the reactions people had when The Beatles dissolved, and I long for that. Why haven't I become so attached to a band that I have to become a shut-in for a week to deal with the emotions? From an academic standpoint, I'm understanding; The Beatles were a band, sure, but their timing was such that they were important as a part of the culture of the moment. That's why there will never be another Beatles; their frustratingly perfect sense of craft is of course a part of it, but no band will ever matter like they did because no other band will ever be so entirely of the moment. It's impossible. Whether I understood it academically or not, I felt gypped.

Thinking about it, I told myself most of the bands I come to have already had their time. Some are encroaching on borrowed time; I'm upset Blur are considering a full reunion, with an album and all that. The oft-mentioned Spoon and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as well as Radiohead and, depending on where they head next, Coldplay, are the only bands going where I have any emotional stake. If any of those bands announced they were breaking up, I'd probably be upset for a while. But here I was, confronted with the demise of LCD Soundsystem. Despite the fact that they have fashioned an album I value above just about any offered by the aforementioned groups, I felt nothing substantial. I didn't feel connected to the group, really.

I saw LCD Soundsystem play last Saturday at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. They were the headliners for the day, and they tore the place apart. There was a great balance of material between the new and the old. The band was on-point, and James Murphy is unquestionably a fantastic vocalist. Not always a great singer, but an A-List presence on the mic. The seven minutes of "All My Friends" was the best single concert experience of my life. I was right up front, against the barricade. There were security guards showering the audience with water, and from the moment those piano chords began resounding across Union Park, time genuinely seemed to freeze.

They ended the show with "New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down," which, really, is the perfect way for LCD Soundsystem to end every show. It feels like stumbling home from a drunk night, like every good concert should. At the end of the song, the band went mute, and a stunningly quiet, stunningly perfect three-part harmony of "Empire State of Mind," the Alicia Keys/Jay-Z collaboration, wrapped up the show. Ostensibly a party band, LCD Soundsystem revealed themselves in less than twenty seconds of music to be twice the musicians, twice the unit, twice the band, that many held them to be. Myself included.

In that moment, I realised that LCD Soundsystem are walking out at exactly the right moment. They own their part of the world right now. The only ups from here would lead to dysfunction, would lead to resentment, would lead to an ending this magnificent band don't deserve. We won't be made to watch their slow demise, to listen to the lackluster releases. LCD Soundsystem have given their fans the best gift possible; they are preserved, for ever, in amber, as a perfect band, as something to aspire to. And I love them for it.

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