In early 2014, post-punk revivalists and electronic oddballs LCD Soundsystem made waves with the bittersweet release of “The Long Goodbye: LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden.” The band had broken up only a few years prior, and The Long Goodbye was meant to be something of a swan song — their last show before disbandment, captured and pressed to wax. Doing so, they successfully preserved the show’s insurmountable energy and passion (not to mention sheer strangeness) and delighted fans with fresh LCD Soundsystem wax for collections, while also reminding us all how much we missed the band.
Well, it would seem that The Long Goodbye wasn’t so long after all. Rumors of LCD Soundsystem reuniting began to circulate only a year after the official release of that seminal Madison Square Garden show, and by 2016, to much celebration, those rumors were confirmed. Now in 2017, after more than enough anticipation, we have at last been treated to new material that picks up exactly where LCD Soundsystem left off all those years ago.
Their new track, “Call the Police,” and its B-side, “American Dream” (or “double a-side,” as they call it), was released for download and streaming earlier this month. It was obvious even before the single was released that fans would voraciously consume any new material from these indie electronic darlings, but would the music be good?
Band reunions are tricky business that all too often result in once loved artists presenting watered-down versions of their former selves, pining for the past while being unsure of how to proceed into to the future. Maybe it has something to do with their reunion taking place so shortly after their disbandment, but on “Call the Police”, LCD Soundsystem suffer no such failings.
“Call the Police” is vintage LCD Soundsystem and then some; their signature off-beat pomp a-la Talking Heads and David Bowie (especially the latter this time around) rests alongside their melodic synthpop leanings in expert synthesis. This forms the perfect backdrop for James Murphey to deliver his unmistakable brand of poetry that consists of equal parts postmodern irony and earnest passion, and of equal parts sarcasm and sincerity.
Alongside Murphey’s ponderings on the complex state of “the now” — “The old guys are frightened and frightening to behold / The kids come out fighting and still doing what they’re told” — as well as his bouts of bittersweet reminiscence that recollect LCD Soundsystem’s excellent “All My Friends” from their “Sound Of Silver” album, lie an understated political slant. Several lines take subtle stabs at the contemporary alt-right, specifically referencing their propensity for regarding the existence of PTSD wholly as a joke as well as their penchant for holocaust denial.
The song represents an LCD Soundsystem acutely aware of the musical as well as sociopolitical climate under which they realease the track, but it hardly represents an LCD Soundsystem that has forgotten what’s made them special and loved for many years prior.
“Call the Police” definitely feels like a statement of sorts, though the meaning is more than open to interpretation, almost certainly by design. If “Call the Police” can be regarded as a parallel to “All My Friends” (the LCD Soundsystem song that sits at the center of “Sound of Silver” as well as the hearts of critics who consider it the band’s magnum opus) then “American Dream” finds its “Sound of Silver” counterpart in the album’s oft-neglected closer, “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down”.
But ultimately, although it is less outwardly anthemic, the b-side (or, once again, “double a-side”), “American Dream” is the more memorable track, and the one whose emotional punch hits the hardest. Perhaps “American Dream” is a little more dramatic with its wobbly ’80s synths, but both songs, (in addition to having similar apportions to slowly building and layering textures up to a distinct climax), are living proof that bleak irony and genuine human emotion are not mutually exclusive constructs. Not all irony is detached — “Oh, the revolution was here / That would set you free from those bourgeoisie / In the morning everything’s clearer / When the sunlight exposes your age” — and not all bleakness is without at least a sardonic hint at something genuinely uplifting — “But you’re still the one pool where I’d happily drown.”
Both songs, with their respective yin and yang irony and sincerity, are perfectly emblematic of the strange space that LCD Soundsystem continues to occupy in the electronic music landscape: that of a dance act perpetually inclined to touch on the many nuances of 21st century existential turmoil, while still being, well, danceable. They form the dancefloor soundtrack to every party that is a celebration of each of your quarter-life-crises, or of each new global tragedy poised to overtake humanity, perhaps making everything just a little easier to reconcile.
And maybe that’s just what music needs in 2017: for The Long Goodbye to be not quite so long.