LCD Soundsystem are back with their third live album, Electric Lady Sessions, to remind us why American Dream topped so best album lists in 2017. Six of twelve tracks are taken from American Dream, with its longest, most experimental and least listenable tracks excluded.
American Dream, Call the Police and I Used To remain excellent slow builders with some inspired lyrics. Particular favourites of mine are “It’s a drug of the heart and you can’t stop the shakin’ / ‘Cause the body wants what it’s terrible at taking” and “You made me throw my hands at my own traditions / And then you’d have a laugh at my inhibitions” but other lyrics are available (terms and conditions apply). At their climaxes these songs have a great manic energy to them, captured best by late standout Emotional Haircut. Oh Baby is probably the weakest track on Electric Lady Sessions but even this is a decent song. Not just these songs, but the entire album skilfully brings together punky guitars, on-point dancey drums and synth overlays in a way that is reminiscent of Joy Division in places.
James Murphy’s knack for sarcastic, sardonic and often self-depreciating wit is fully displayed in the songs chosen. Tonite is a prime example – it starts as a comment on modern chart music with its obsession with “tonight”. Murphy takes aim at this obsession with the lyric “But shit, it feels like forever”. By it’s end Tonite has become a wide-ranging ramble full of insecurity, cynicism and fear. Murphy is clearly aware of this drawling out a description of himself as a “hobbled veteran of the disk shop inquisition” and his lyrics as “late era middle-age ramblings”. All of this is behind an excellent synth backing. Tonite also gets points for its seamless transition, complete with cow bells, into a brilliant rendition of home. The kind of writing that is seen on Tonite is also on display on You Wanted A Hit in which Murphy sardonically, but not without a paradoxical sense of pride, sings the opening line: “You wanted a hit/But maybe we don’t do hits”. This line is also brilliant in that it gets right to the centre of the DIY philosophy that enables LCD to release songs that are in no way three-minute radio friendly ‘hits’.
The Electric Lady sessions are overwhelming weighted towards newer material with all but one of their own tracks being from either American Dream or 2010’s This Is Happening (Get Innocuous!, a song that is anything but innocuous, being the only exception).
Given James Murphy’s famously extensive music knowledge and the band’s excellent record collection it is no surprise that the covers are excellent and certainly are not obvious choices. The album opens with Seconds – a Human league song that was the B-side to the seminal synth-pop track, Don’t You Want Me. Here the slightly dark but still danceable spirit of the original is kept brilliantly but it’s obsessional use of synths is replaced with a willingness to bring in a more organic base line and sharper drums. This gives it a more dangerous DIY vibe – more post-punk than synth-pop.
I suspect that it is no coincidence that Heaven 17 is chosen to close given their rivalry with The Human League (Martyn Ware and Ian Craig marsh’s former band). Regardless of this nod to music trivia (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang is just a really entertaining song and is probably the only time Hitler has been in the same sentence as funky. LCD replace a line about Reagan with “The orange one is President” because no album is complete without a jab at Trump (Reagan also incidentally used fake tan, was the oldest ever president and was a terrible actor but I digress). I’m not sure whether Trump or Reagan (if he was alive) should be more offended but more unflattering (imagine such a thing) is certainly the Fascism parallel.
Chicc’s I Want Your Love also slips into the Electric Lady Sessions. This is classic disco tune based around the scratchy rhythm guitar that Nile Rodgers had made a career out of. Nancy Wang’s vocals are used to great effect, the scratchiness of the guitar is really brought out in the rhythm guitar and the song is remixed to be shorter so it doesn’t have time to become repetitive.
If there is a sentiment, we can all agree on here its that whilst We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang, we certainly do need this Electric Lady thang.