Truce, fingers not crossed
Scene Jesus, James Murphy, blessing his congregation
“Watch the Tapes,” the first peek I’ve had at the new LCD Soundsystem, is thankful reassurance of my biased and hopeful assumption that dance punk is an emaciated corpse in the corner of a MisShapes party. And yet it does a dance, albeit up and down, with the tenacity and smirk of a elder punk still brandishing a full set of chompers. Straightforward rhythm dominates “Watch the Tapes”: Locked-in, even-headed and effortless repetition on the drum kit is matched tit for tat by steady guitar strumming not bothered by a light workload of two, maybe three chords total. Only Murphy’s sing/scowl and a gently undulating fuzz tone — originating from a bass or synth (it’s near impossible to differentiate) — move the tune forward.
This bullet train approach calls to mind the motorik pulse of “Losing My Edge” shout-out-recipient Can, particularly their Tago Mago-era work. Though Murphy is still very comfortably himself, his slightly disjointed lyrics of being high on lemon sips, “politricks,” individuals too eager to please, and advocacy to “read all the pamphlets and watch all the tapes” make small guestures of kinship with Damo Suzuki.
Concentrating all of its energy into consistent sameness, “Watch the Tapes” is brightest during the short adjournment bursts that might be choruses. There Murphy cuts a little loose, an adorable “ah-woohoo!” straight from ELO hit “Don’t Bring Me Down,” even harmonizing with himself on the clever, encouraging lyrics “Avoid all the cold sideways glances / Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate and then turn to stone.”
LCD Soundsystem’s highly anticipated to return may not be the most action-packed or wildly different, but it has greatly raised my expectations for Sound of Silver. Using the same tools as found on previous work reappropriated without sounding dull, firing off a streamlined dose of chipper kraut punk rock without being vapid — neither of these are easy tasks. With all this motion, Murphy takes no time to rest on his laurels and pulls off “Watch the Tapes” with flair to spare. Game on, Murphy, game on.