I write this, appropriately, still basking in the afterglow of a very special meal at Brawn on Columbia Road—special because it was playing host to The Four Horsemen, the Brooklyn wine bar-cum-restaurant co-owned by James Murphy, a.k.a. LCD Soundsystem. The meal had twists and turns and surprises aplenty, the greatest of them all arguably being that the night before, Murphy’s band had made their debut on Saturday Night Live, playing two new songs. Continue reading Dancing in the light
*Not actually definitive at all.
This started with my recognition that BuzzFeed has decided to carve up every phenomenon in the world into ‘definitive rankings‘ and ‘which x are you?‘. Not to be outdone, here, then, is my contribution to this growing corpus. I hope Mr. Matthew Perpetua is paying attention. Continue reading The definitive* ranking of DFA remixes
It starts with the crowd showing their appreciation. Slowly, a rhythm settles in. Then, a gut-churning bass line and a central instrumental motif guaranteed to make bodies writhe. It’s The Rapture’s “House of Jealous Lovers”—the first DFA single, with James Murphy behind the boards.
And it’s pretty much David Bowie’s “Love Is Lost”, too, albeit spun out over a ten-minute remix masterminded by, yes, James Murphy. Continue reading James Murphy’s Law
“Put an ocean and a river between everything, yourself and home.” Sometimes, Matt Berninger seems to advise in The National’s “England”, you have to get a little distance between you and the things, and people, dear to you. Paul Haggis’s “Crash” was a clunky metaphor for how Los Angelenos are only brought together by traumatic collisions. Before germ theory found currency, people thought the origin of epidemics lay in ‘bad air’, or, miasma, emanating from rotting organic matter. Continue reading Miasma
Snow brings a bundle of emotions wrapped up in pillows of fragile beauty. The stillness of the garden, as flakes come to rest, silently, upon the lawn. The feeling of limbo, either stranded in the house or resorting to the lazy predictability of fireside conversations with comfortable friends in the pub. The lack of adventurousness, pitted against stirrings of the heart bereft of an adequate outlet. The realisation that the blank white mass will turn to mucky slush and glistening films of ice. Such is the stuff of a wintry playlist. Continue reading Snow Wave
Three closing songs to mark the passing of a year and the predictable dreariness of a new one. Continue reading Glitter, wind, more of the same
It barely matters that one of Miss Grace Jones’s two true masterpieces was recorded in New York City and the other in the Bahamas—both are imbued with the spirit of the Caribbean, and both are albums I kept returning to whilst marooned in India over the last month or so. Continue reading Compass points to the rhythm
Back in 1976, he cornered the market all by himself with “Stay”, a six-minute funk odyssey with classily struck chords, a light pattering of tropical percussion, and the meanest bass-line this side of Compass Point Studios (which itself wasn’t built till a year later). Near the end, there’s a brilliant interplay between bass and lead guitar, the latter of which is busy wailing away to the Thin White Duke’s wildest coke-fuelled nightmare.
Taken from Station To Station (RCA Records, 1976).
“Drunk Girls” is a predictable LCD Soundsystem lead single. Witty and punky, it’s the natural successor to “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” and “North American Scum”. It sounds like Bowie, in the sense that Blur’s “M.O.R” sounds like “Boys Keep Swinging”.
“All I Want” is what happens when you give James Murphy almost seven minutes to ape Bowie. Clattering in after five seconds of studio noise, and riding on an unending krautrock beat, “All I Want” is like the super-awesome sequel to “”Heroes”” that Bowie never wrote. Over victorious piano chords and a beautifully cocky lead guitar squall, Murphy comes over all Bono, intoning “I’ve never needed anyone for so long” in a pretty world-leading style. At this point, “All I Want” could be the second cousin of “Beautiful Day”.
Then, magically, the 70s art rock is overtaken by a terrifically squiggly synth melody which ascends in a manner initially euphoric, and then downright cosmic. Channelling the further-out reaches of electronic music through a beating heart of pop is a decision I initially treated with some scepticism, especially since the direction Murphy’s keyboard travels is a bit… self-indulgent, shall we say. To his credit, in amidst all the portamento-fuelled weirdness, the song never loses control and always remains just about in orbit. As he and his bandmates wail out “Take me ho-oooome!” and the piece decays into gorgeous vapours, you think, yes, he’s pulled it off.
“All I Want” is definitely the kind of epic art rock that nobody has dared tackle for at least 30 years. It manages to be simultaneously extremely louche (in a white chinos and deck shoes kind of way) and also super-slick – and one senses this is probably the smallest of compliments I’ll be handing Mr. Murphy by the time I’ve heard the rest of This Is Happening.