James Murphy and David Bowie don’t have all that much in common, despite the fact that both, more likely than not, have an enormously large crossover fan base. While, as LCD Soundsystem, Murphy positioned himself as indie rock’s electronic dance overlord, he didn’t seem to engage much in Bowie’s gestures toward electronic or dance music (namely, the Berlin Trilogy or, well, the Duran Duran-anticipating world of “Let’s Dance”). Like a lot of ethereal indie heads, Murphy’s interest in the Bowie decade begins and ends with Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), a record remembered by many for being Bowie’s Songs in the Key of Life, i.e. ‘the last good one.’
Murphy and his reacquainted company of whoever he has in his band has explored this territory before, namely in the glam party that was “Never as Tired as When I’m Waking Up,” from their debut. But that song isn’t quite LCD’s calling card à la “All My Friends” or “Daft Punk is Playing at My House.” But on the two singles that dropped last night, “Call the Police” and “American Dream,” the new and major-label LCD Soundsystem dive right in to the territory of the po-mo glam blast, the slow and churning dance through decadence that his more bass-heavy blasts have generally avoided.
Lyrically, the Bowie is all over both “Call the Police” and “American Dream”: after a nihilistic rejoinder to anyone who thinks “this” is not nothing, he goes on about ‘moving to Berlin,’ a place that Bowie himself reemphasized his connection to back on “Where Are We Now?,” the lead single of his penultimate album—an album with another single that Murphy gave how own ten minute remix treatment.
But “American Dream” is where the dark cavernous layers of Bowie’s glam dungeon of fun really show their makeup. “He was leather and you were screaming, swinging chains against the stage,” Murphy drolly narrates, setting up a scene that could be in Velvet Goldmine. In Murphy’s lingua franca of the area of Brooklyn that surround that wine bar he owns, he’s talking about one of those one-night stands that the kids are so fond of these days. Funny territory for a married man about hit fifty to give the song and dance treatment to, sure—but ol’ Bowie was singing and dancing about some pretty weird shit before leaving us all behind.
So what does all the Bowie hanging around the strange corners of “Call the Police” and “American Dream” mean for the new LCD record that’s perpetually hanging somewhere in the distance? Like early Bowie, Murphy jumped onto a crowded scene and was cannily able to turn himself into its name ambassador through canny namechecks and well-kept brand. The fact, however, that Murphy’s been mostly keeping out of the currently dance wave is telling. (if you don’t think Murphy was into what the kids were listening to back then, check out his remix of Pharrell’s “She Wants to Move.”) “Call the Police” and “American Dream,” along with LCD’s first reunion single “Christmas Will Break Your Heart,” echew quite a lot of the ol’ handclap-heavy sound that Murphy was pushing back in ’06.
Instead, the new LCD is interested in something darker on the surface, something beyond whining about how much cooler everyone else is or whatnot. Kinda like when the new Bowie suddenly reappeared out of nowhere. Here’s to LCD staying around a little longer.