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LCD SOUNDSYSTEM:: S/T (Album Review)

Nothing is hidden here: James Murphy’s record collection is on display via the influences so easily discernible on his debut album as LCD Soundsystem. The sound is all bare wires, exposed workings, pre-dissected for maximum accessibility. And yet… it retains its maximum coolness throughout. It’s hipper than hip, a swinging conflation of hollowed-out post-punk noise driven by a sleek, minimalist, future-funk engine. And yet… it bites the hand that feeds it by being as much a commentary on the mores of obsessive-hipster, underground record collectors as it is itself more fuel for these same obsessives. LCD Soundsystem’s sonic emissions are a series of enclosing parentheses with their contents blatantly on display: insistent Krautrocking machine-funk; squelchy retro-disco grooves; jabbering post-punk basslines and spindly guitars. It’s a mercurial succession of mini-tableaux, perfectly composed selections of captured influences, occasionally turning into outright pastiche: the sneering Mark E Smith voice of “Movement”; the thickened, jive-talking vocals of “Thrills” (every bit as camp and mannered as Jagger’s on the Rolling Stones’ “Hot Stuff”); the “Dear Prudence” descending melody on the bleakly empty “Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up.” What does all this amount to? “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” kind of says it all — it’s at once a bold musical statement, a piece of self-conscious absurdity, and an infectious, irresistible groove. Whatever the post-modernist machinations implied by Murphy’s contradictory stance, the resolution comes via the pulsating, compelling momentum the music generates. It’s as if Murphy asks the question, then says “Aww, forget it,” as the funk kicks in. It’s a classic case of debut album as faux anthology of musical influences, but it’s also a successful collection with a marked sense of individuality, massively helped by Murphy’s dry sense of humor, which demonstrates a willingness to embrace the contradiction at the heart of his musical personality. The overall effect is only slightly diluted by appending the early LCD Soundsystem singles on an additional bonus disc, so while 2002’s mighty “Losing My Edge” has something valuable to contribute to Murphy’s discourse, it appears as a kind of footnote instead of a key element. (by Tom Ridge/Neu Mu)