BOTTOM LINE An ambitious return from an unexpected retirement.
Nothing riles people up more than artists who change their minds.
But one listen to LCD Soundsystem’s comeback album, “American Dream” (DFA/Columbia), and it becomes clear that mastermind James Murphy had to reunite the band after its “retirement” in 2011 because he had a whole lot to say.
How serious is “American Dream”? Well, it opens with the peppy “Oh Baby” about new life and ends with the 12-minute “Black Screen,” which isn’t just about death, but seemingly about the regrets Murphy has concerning the death of his friend and collaborator David Bowie. In between, Murphy uses a variety of dance beats to build a platform to discuss a variety of concerns, from the personal to the broadly political.
“We maybe realize what it is we need before we die,” Murphy sings over the intense beats of the current single “Tonite,” where he advises people that it’s OK to grow older. “Luck is always better than skill at things. We’re flying blind. Oh good gracious, I sound like my mom.”
“Tonite” shows how Murphy has learned to use repetitive grooves to keep the crowd moving in the clubs, but also to make his lyrical ideas stand out.
He does it again on the stunning “Other Voices,” which sounds like it was adopted from Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” soundtrack, the rumbling bass and African percussion driving home Murphy’s railing against the ongoing battle to convince people to believe things they know are untrue.
The dramatic “How Do You Sleep?” creates a nine-minute, treacherous journey that doesn’t work out, when Murphy describes a trudging chant of “one step forward” followed by the rapid repeating of “then six steps back.”
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Murphy is so meticulous that he even uses “Scary Monsters”-era Bowie for “Change Yr Mind,” to give the strongest musical support to the chant, “You can change your mind” to defend LCD Soundsystem’s return.