“Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” sneered a weary Johnny Rotten at the conclusion of The Sex Pistols’ last ever live performance at the Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco back in 1978.
It’s the very same question plenty of hardcore LCD Soundsystem fans found themselves asking back in January of 2016. Frontman James Murphy caught everyone by surprise, announcing his band of electro-post punkers were reforming after having bowed out in legendary fashion back in 2011 with an immaculate third album – 2010’s This Is Happening – and a spectacular, sold out farewell performance at Madison Square Gardens that was captured for posterity on film (Shut Up and Play the Hits), like a modern day version of Martin Scorsese’s 1978 concert-film for The Band, The Last Waltz.
To some dedicated LCD apostles – especially those who paid top dollar for those MSG tickets- LCD’s sudden about turn after such an elaborate goodbye hit hard, like most painful betrayals are wont to do, and they subsequently took to venting their anger online. Like, how can a band who epitomised New York cool over the course of three untouchable albums and numerous killer live performances sell their carefully constructed legacy out just like that? And for what? A chance to headline Coachella? Surely the band didn’t miss the fame or need the cash that badly that they would decide to compromise their integrity in such an unbecoming manner.
Manning up to the backlash, Murphy took to Facebook to post a lengthy apology, explaining that he had not expected the fans to feel so betrayed by their return from the dead and that he toyed with the idea of embarking on a solo career but ultimately decided that he’d rather continue making music with LCD cohorts Pat Mahoney and Nancy Whang. It was a nice touch that Facebook apology, empathising with the fans and their (valid) feelings of being let down, and also a really smart move as it stopped all the rumours and hearsay dead in their tracks. Problem solved. Now let’s get on with the music.
The thing is, it’s really hard to stay angry with a reformed band who comes back with an album as great as American Dream, a cohesive, take-no-prisoners fourth collection that manages to deliver almost everything one could possibly want from an LCD record (and then some). Forget the narrative and negative bullshit surrounding LCD Soundsystem’s breakup and subsequent reformation, American Dream is a seriously thrilling record that simply needed to get made – given the high quality tunesmanship on display, it would have been a crying shame not to record these songs – by the only band capable of doing these amazing songs justice in the studio.
Oh Baby kicks off the album in flawless, show-stealing fashion, building up a heavy, remorseful synth ballad from the ground up layer by careful layer until it fully unveils itself as a throbbing, pulsating beast of a tune. Other Voices arrives next, hot on its heels and urgent sounding, propelled by a hypnotic bassline and a jerky, hip-swaying beat with Murphy rallying against the incessant groove, sounding all world weary and confused while emoting punchlines like “you’re still a pushover/ for passionate people” like it meant everything and nothing all at once. As an opening double salvo, it doesn’t get much better than these two tracks together.
As it was David Bowie who played a huge part in convincing Murphy to reform LCD, it’s only fitting that the spectre of the Thin White Duke looms large over a lot of American Dream, especially on the slinky Change Yr Mind which expertly melds Robert Fripp, Scary Monsters style guitar pyrotechnics with a Talking Heads Remain In Light style elastic groove to great effect.
American Dream is an album with no obvious weak spots. Every track works its collective butt off to earn respect and engage the mind. Despite clocking in at just under 69 minutes, it never gets boring at any point. Lead single Call The Police is one of those euphoric, New Order soundalike anthems that LCD have perfected while current single Tonite builds into a squelching, motorik disco monster that’s nigh on impossible to resist.
Moving further along, title track American Dream is an emotional late night lament that sounds like Kraftwerk trying their hand at scoring a fifties ballad; Emotional Haircut a tribalistic post punk jam that already sounds like an LCD classic and sprawling closer Black Screen a hypnotic dirge that closes the album on a sombre note.
American Dream is a complex, interesting record that’s high on melancholy, musicality and frequently hilarious and insightful lyrical mindbombs. The more you listen to American Dream, the more the record reveals itself to be something worth getting very excited about. As comeback albums go, American Dream is up there with the very best of them and certainly nothing to get upset about whatsoever. Instead, we should be celebrating the fact that LCD Soundsystem are back doing what they do best for all of us to enjoy.