Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2007: Number 8

Just waiting for neck cricks to result

If James Murphy's adventures as LCD Soundsystem can be said to be going in one direction, it's that long held idea of humanising machines, which has been in evidence ever since Kraftwerk brought this stuff to wider attention from merging ideas from Stockhausen and avant free jazz in 1970. As if to repay the debt Sound Of Silver starts with Get Innocuous!, which after starting like a close cousin of initial statement of intent Losing My Edge rings up a counter electronic melody borrowed from The Robots. Compared to the sprawl of their debut album, Sound Of Silver is less heavy on the Fall and post-punk-isms but is more of an attempt to make a dance record that sounds like a properly structured dance record, full of stylistic ideas and statements. It's also an album made by the ex-record store clerk who narrated Losing My Edge, only now in a moment of self-realisation away from his semi-perverse commidification of record collecting, considering how time actually got him here and what he's getting out of it.

'Record collector rock' is an appellation to describe bands who want you to know how cool and all-encompassing their influences are by copying them to some great degree with not much of a personal stamp. Get Innocuous!, with its self-referential opening and progression towards Murphy giving it full Bowie Low tone and slaps on a Talking Heads undertow to its Kling Klang-programmed LED heart, while Time To Get Away comes on like Liquid Liquid, but at the same time this could be nobody else but Murphy. Tellingly there's no Daft Punk playing at this house, the nearest being North American Scum's Detroit electro shuffle over a langorous bassline and Krautrock drums while Murphy satirically rants about his home town's hipsters and rulers "for those of you who still think we're from England". Even that single is blown out of the water by the two tracks that follow, the album's humanist element. Someone Great ("has gone") is built on pulsing, whirring slabs of electro and a massive warped bassline originally used on his feature-length Nike running commission 45:33, over which Murphy ponders the nature of lost love or possibly death and what it leaves behind - "The little things that made me nervous/Are gone, in a moment/I miss the way we used to argue...The worst is all the lovely weather/I'm stunned, it's not raining" - while the actively magnificent All My Friends sees 37 year old Murphy, framed by high speed piano and a motorik groove like a Germanic New Order, looks back at his younger self ("We set controls for the heart of the sun/one of the ways we show our age") and wondering whether the party lifestyle was worth it. "You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan/And the next five years trying to be with your friends again" he declaims, in the sixth year of DFA Records' existence, while the minimal keyboard prod drives the ever increasing march of textured guitars and synths onto the pure euphoria close as Murphy piles on his own existential angst. It sounds like his influences, and at the same time the way they're put together makes them sound like nothing else. After that the record can afford to coast home, not that it really does with Us V Them's percussive assault and the title track's techno as programmed by Brian Eno. Having a headphones listen reveals the key is in the production, the sort of depth and spaciousness not even rock records seem to allow for now, but what Sound Of Silver really does is peel back the mid-30s hipster facade, the lyrical irony, the machine-tooled rhythms and the dog-eared vinyl to reveal Murphy's feelings and then find a way to reflect them onto his music.

LISTEN ON: All My Friends
WATCH ON: Someone Great


My favourite album of 2007 is...

Julian Saporiti, The Young Republic: "The Privates' new album Barricades (although technically it came out in December) and more recent Quilisma's What It Is."

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