This Is Happening

LCD Soundsystem

Virgin, 2010

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


James Murphy is the Ricky Gervais of rock. He shares the comedian's uncanny sense of humor, which relies heavily on making audiences squirm with unease when ugly truths are addressed. And like Gervais, he's content with leaving projects after their second or third efforts. While most artists that reach LCD Soundsystem's level of success seem to view their band as a long-running franchise, James Murphy takes pains to ensure that his audience is left wanting more.

It looks like This is Happening will be LCD Soundsystem's last album. Like his previous album (Sound Of Silver), it only has nine songs. And like Sound Of Silver, much of This Is Happening is seen through the eyes of a late 30s-early forty-something, looking on in wonder and longing as the younger generation is partying it up on Brooklyn rooftops and creating their own scene while he watches from the outside. "Everyone's getting younger / It's an end of an era, it's true," Murphy sings on the opening track "Dance Yrself Clean." He's not kidding.

If it were recorded by most any other artist, This Is Happening would be an excellent album. But unfortunately, Murphy made the mistake of addressing many of the issues of mortality in a far more poignant and far catchier way in my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Sound Of Silver. With that album, the listener was drawn in to an early morning conversation that either dealt with the death of a loved one, or an ending relationship with "Something Great." It was also the album that deftly dispelled youthful nostalgia with the lines "Makes you want to feel like a teenager / Until you remember the feelings of / A real life emotional teenager / Then you think again." It also didn't help that it contained a song that came as close to defining a decade as Outkast's "B.O.B." with "All My Friends."

This release may be getting throngs of critical raves, but even some critics who love the album concede that nearly a third of the disc is a retread of Sound Of Silver. "Drunk Girls" is a raucous party anthem in the same sprit as "North American Scum." "Pow Pow" could almost be called a second take of "Watch The Tapes." And that's LCD Soundystem ripping off his own band.

Other songs wear their influences so clearly, they could qualify as a Girl Talk song. "One Touch" sounds like a 2010 remake of the Talking Heads' "Born Under Punches" and the druggy "Somebody's Calling Me" comes close to thieving the hook of Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing." In some circles, this is a homage, but if this was Moby, critics would be crying foul.

Still, Murphy remains several steps ahead of his audience. And this disc contains moments that leave this critic leery of giving it a low grade for fear that in a few months, this could wind up being a "Best Of The Year" type of album. The gorgeous "I Can Change" gradually builds and Murphy drops an immortal lyric "Love is a curse / Shoved in a hearse." And if LCD Soundsystem chooses to call it a day with this album, you couldn't ask for a better career capper than "Home."

But even though This Is Happening is an almost certain grower, a few critical weaknesses are inescapable. After the sushi knife sharpness of the lyrics in Sound Of Silver, shouldn't we at least expect a similar effort with this album? And while we don't want Murphy to do "All My Friends Part II," it isn't much to expect this album to have at least a similar amount of hooks. His persona casts him as a studio perfectionist. His listeners shouldn't expect a masterpiece for each release, but they have every right to expect more than what is on This Is Happening.

Rating: B-

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