I mean, no one really thought there would never be another LCD Soundsystem album, right?
For all the anguish and wistful valedictory celebration that accompanied the announcement of LCD Soundsystem’s farewell, back in 2011, the dissolution of James Murphy’s triumphant collaboration of electronic extravaganzas always felt temporary. Viewed benignly, it seemed like more than an impulsive hiatus. Under more cynical examination, it had the air of a calculated put-on, which Murphy has basically admitted was the case.
And here we are, in the dazzling, spinning mirror ball reflected light of the least surprising reunion in ages. American Dream is the fourth full-length under the LCD Soundsystem name, and it no mere rehash. It shimmers and soars with all the same anxious ingenuity that has typified the group’s output from the start. Album opener “Oh Baby” immediately sets the mind at lovely unease, sounding like a warmer Public Image Ltd (I catch a hint of “Rise” in the track’s heartbeat rhythms) as Murphy pines with language that is simultaneously simple and achingly poetic (“Oh lover/ You run from me/ We move like a bad scene/ Shot in the dark”). It establishes that Murphy and his crew are back in the mode of channeling decades of electronic influences into material that is inventive and original.
In that alchemy that makes the familiar into the blazingly new, American Dream is a sort of successor — or perhaps an answer — to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. Where the French duo was explicit in their glitter-doused history lessons — bringing the likes of Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder along for the rollicking ride — LCD Soundsystem is slyer, more playful in deploying echoes of influence. “Other Voices” takes the ersatz funk of Talking Heads and folds in the mind-bending casual experimentation of Laurie Anderson. It’s followed by “I Used To,” which sounds like Art of Noise with a welcome soul transplant. And “How Do You Sleep?” plays like the disco reconstruction U2 thought they were making, circa Zooropa and Pop.
Drawing those comparisons might imply American Dream is derivative. It’s not. LCD Soundsystem has long had a skill for making their material reverberate with grand invention. That remains in full evidence throughout the new album. “Tonite” is a quintessential LCD Soundsystem song, at once satirizing and mastering modern dance floor fare as Murphy zings back and forth between slump-shouldered asides and questing croons in his vocals. “But embarrassing pictures have now all been deleted/ By versions of selves that we thought were the best ones/ ‘Til versions of versions of others repeating/ Come laughing at everything we thought was important,” he sings, getting at the existential woes of the modern age with a plain perfectness that puts to shame lyricists who stick with the established she-made-me-happy-then-she-made-me-sad grammar of pop songs.
As the album grooves to a close with the elegance of “Black Screen,” a heartbroken, mournful, and icily experimental David Bowie tribute, its clear that LCD Soundsystem have provided a danceable argument for their continued contribution to the pop culture discourse, no matter what feigned bows they may have already taken. There’s no cause for a band to leave the stage when they can still dominate it. The dream is real, and it offers uncommon sonic luxuries.