James Murphy didn’t waste much time in laying out the thesis that has come to define LCD Soundsystem. “Losing My Edge”, the band’s 2002 debut single, tactfully explores the theme LCD have spent the better part of the last decade pondering, namely, the fear of becoming inconsequential. “I’m losing my edge to all the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia from the unremembered eighties,” he dryly observes. “The kids are coming up from behind.” As the song progresses, our narrator desperately attempts to validate how cool he really is, and in the process increasingly comes off as illogical, bitter and, ultimately, irrelevant. “I’ve never been wrong… I used to work in the record store… I had everything before anyone.” But still, he hears that “everybody you know is more relevant than everybody I know.” In the end, when he concludes that “you don’t know what you really want,” it’s hard to tell whether he’s talking to himself or his audience.
Not that it matters. LCD Soundsystem’s most effective songs – “All My Friends”, “Someone Great”, “Yeah”— all deal with the desire to be cool without knowing exactly what being cool means, and the struggle of getting older without becoming irrelevant, of growing up without growing old and falling out. What makes LCD Soundsystem so enduring is the fact that Murphy, by so blatantly addressing these arbitrary issues, has become the epitome of cool for a music culture that generally considers anyone over the age of thirty to be about as useful as a payphone. “I’m 40 now,” Murphy said at the band’s surprise show at the Williamsburg Hall of Music last Thursday. “That means every band I saw had Fishbone opening up.”
His twisted sense of irony carries with it an honesty that’s admirable in the ADD-riddled internet age, where bands and critics have a distaste for genuine admiration and spend most of their time defining themselves by what they don’t like. He may be just as pretentious and snobby, but it’s a lot easier for the audience to take your criticism when you’re also making fun of yourself. It goes without saying that this band wouldn’t be nearly as effective if the lead singer happened to be 25 rather than 40. As most things LCD-related, context is essential. When today’s hero is tomorrow’s joke, foresight is everything. You can’t pull off songs like “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” and “Movement” unless you’ve spent an entire youth desperately trying to live out their scenario. Write what you know, as the saying goes. And it doesn’t hurt if you can make it dance.
If what he says is to be believed, This Is Happening will be the third and last record that Murphy releases as LCD Soundsystem. But if “Drunk Girls”, the band’s first single from that album, is any indication of stamina, we probably shouldn’t worry about Murphy running out of steam any time soon, regardless of what he may decide to call himself the next time around.
LCD Soundsystem are playing Webster Hall Monday, April 12.