Monday, March 20, 2017

Sound of Silver Turns 10: How LCD Soundsystem help me grow up

“Sound of Silver, talk to me. Makes me want to feel like a teenager. Until you remember the feelings of. A real life emotional teenager. Then you think again”

LCD Soundsytem’s “Sound of Silver” isn’t an album that I discovered in 2007 and I wouldn’t have been ready for it then. It’s an album that makes more sense as you get older and experience life. On the surface, it’s a great dance record made by one of the best producers this century in James Murphy. But underneath those pulsing rhythms and sly lyrics is an album that not only touched my soul and made me ponder life, it’s an emotional piece of work that’s as introspective as it’s fun

I found a kinship in Murphy because he didn’t find success until his 30s. When I discovered LCD at 26, I had just quit my job and was looking for something to keep going. I was single (not for much longer) and when I heard “All My Friends”, it made me feel something. Missing my friends, missing college, feeling like I tried so hard to be a success that I missed something in the journey. (“you spend the next 5 years trying to get with the plan and the next 5 years trying to get with your friends again”).

When I first heard the full album around around 2011, I didn’t know what to expect besides the twin killing of Someone Great and All My Friends. What I got was something that made me dance, think and cry. An album that had what I call “soul on the dance floor” and transformed LCD Soundsystem from a great live band with singles to a band that spoke to life.

Take North American Scum. It’s the third track and it could be a mockery at phony American arrogance. We’re better than you, we’re high and mighty but it’s got so much irony all over it. (“New York’s the greatest if you find someone to pay your rent”). Throw in a throbbing bass line and killer drums, it’s attacking American exceptionalism without being heavy while making you dance and yell “We’re North American Scum”. It’s a style that Murphy would do again on LCD’s third album with “Drunk Girls” - not celebrating them, just observing and critiquing while making you dance as if you were drunk.

This book I bought last year also helped shape my appreciation of this album.

There’s obvious nods to Murphy’s influences. From the opener “Get Innocuous” that borrows from Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” to the singer-songwriter leanings of “New York I Love You”, he showed when he referenced his heroes in “Losing My Edge”, he didn’t just admire them to copy them. He could make his own sound like they did. Where the first LCD album had great music and production, Sound of Silver showed Murphy more as a great songwriter who could also make you dance and surround you with sound.

And there’s the idea of growing old. Sound of Silver’s title track does this with those simple lyrics. Things make you want to be young again until you remember what comes along with youth. Maybe it’s cause I work around kids all the time but anytime I think about wanting to stay relevant and young, I realize how silly it is cause I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned and can do now. You can still dance yourself clean and get down with the grooves but why be young again? Why not embrace the sounds/styles you grew up with as well as change and creating something new? When loss happens as we age, we don’t just let out emotion - we process it slowly and often look at things over and over.

“New York I Love You” hit me at a point in my life where I wanted to leave Los Angeles. I was feeling a lack of community and coupled with quitting my job, not being surrounded by a circle of friends and wanting a new challenge, that song captured my love-hate relationship with this city.  L.A. has pockets of community and sports brings us together but it also feels so fractured with different communities that rarely interact. So that song was almost my theme song as I looked to move and find jobs in other cities.

Now it reminds me of watching a city change due to gentrification (and the NFL moving into my hometown). Even as I’ve found community through running and come to love more about LA, there’s still something iffy about seeing a city lose something I grew up with. And Murphy captured that.

“I wish that we could talk about it. But there, that’s the problem. With someone new I could have started. Too late for beginnings. The little things that made me nervous are gone in a moment. I miss the way we used to argue. Locked, in your basement.”

But really, what makes this album are the two emotional centers. I loved “Someone Great” when I first heard it and it took on deeper meaning after I became single in 2014. The words perfectly capture what it’s like to deal with losing somebody after the first wave. The process of grief realizing that person is no longer around. Trying to put yourself together again. The music being simple and stark but having little twists to take you through the wave. It sounds like pain but the pain that lingers for a while. Is it any surprise I found comfort in it after a breakup?

I went through sadness then dealing with the aftermath and Murphy’s words sounded like a mature way of handing it. Not wallowing in guilt or tears but just that feeling of “dang, what do I do now”. Sort of like Allan Ginsburg’s poem “Kaddish” or James Baldwin’s “No Name in the Street”, both written after loss about the process than just the grief. That’s why I love that song and even in the sadness, I feel invigorated yet wandering in my mind. A reminder that growing old means saying goodbye

Then there’s “All My Friends”. I’ve written about this anthem before but the song continues to mean things to me every time. From making me miss my college friends to running on the beach and realizing he’s talking about a divorce, the words sink in and bring out chills. The building crescendo from the piano chords to the drums, then synths crashing in adds to the urgency of watching a relationship build and end. In 7:42, Murphy gives me that whole vibe of growing up/growing apart and when it ends and the music gets louder, you just feel like you want to see them again can’t accept the end - except you have to.

If you wanted to argue it’s the best song of the decade, I’m with you. If you want to take it further and say best of the 2000s, I’m with you. When I heard this song months after quitting my job and on the verge of starting a relationship, it spoke to my soul. It’s a song about transition that only comes with life experience and for those of us entering the work force during the recession, it means something the same way the film “Up in the Air” described those emotions of transition and rediscovering yourself when life cuts you off.

When LCD closed with this at FYF Festival last year, me and everybody lost our minds. It became one big dance party and after a dream come true that I thought would never happen when they retired. Hearing that song with the music building all around just made me like I was surrounded by family. and it ranks high on my all-time list of concert experiences (nothing will top Prince for obvious reasons but this certainly competes for No. 2)

Sound of Silver helped me not just enjoy indie music even more, it was helped me grow up in my late 20s. Just like College Dropout helped define my experiences in 2004-06, this album did it for my 20s and likely my 30s as well.

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