Although it starts out slower than one might expect from the band that started with songs like “Dance Yrself Clean” and “Daft Punk is Playing at My House,” LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream has a “dreamy” excellence right off the bat. As the band’s first release since their 2011 breakup and the 2015 announcement that they would be returning to the stage, it brought high expectations from fans, and it lives up to them. It’s an apology letter, a nod to Murphy’s idols, and the beginning of a new era for the band, and all of that is clear from the get go.
Beginning with “Oh Baby,” it’s clear that its sound is different and that, for the most part, the album chooses to shirk the sarcastic edge of LCD Soundsystem’s earlier work for a more self-conscious and bittersweet sound. It has themes of closure, of new eras and of shirking responsibilities; it even seems to acknowledge that things have changed. In “Change Yr Mind” Murphy voices his anxieties about the band’s revival, and, in typical LCD Soundsystem fashion, it feels too honest to be true. He sings to fans, apologetic and sardonic, “But if you don’t like what it feels like/and you don’t/don’t like where it’s been/it could be over if you change your mind.”
It’s certainly more isolating than any of the band’s previous releases — but that’s not a bad thing. The whole album feels incredibly personal for Murphy, even with listeners drawing ties to bands like Talking Heads and Suicide. Lyrics like “The hobbled veteran of the disk shop inquisition/set to parry the cocksure of men’s sick filth/with my own late era middle-aged ramblings” are a beautiful parallel to songs like “Losing My Edge” from the band’s first album, whereas lyrics like “I have a penny for your thoughts/if you could keep them to yourself” have the same sarcastic tone as “You Wanted a Hit.” Tracks like “Tonite” do both; they acknowledge the chaos of artistry and the difficulties of creating honestly while remaining closer to their earlier work.
The album’s closer, “Black Screen,” is possibly the most emotional song on the album: It’s Murphy’s eulogy to one of his idols, David Bowie, whose death left a hole in the music industry in January of 2016. With the recent confirmation that LCD Soundsystem reformed under Bowie’s counsel, it’s a touching goodbye from the band to their greatest influence, and it gives the album a mellow sendout. It’s not nearly as chaotic as LCD Soundsystem’s earlier work; there’s an overall cohesiveness that’s hard to find in earlier albums, and this is where many fans take issue. However, the emotional take is refreshing, the change in synths is more interesting, and it has an ebb and flow that shows a great deal of artistry. While early releases bemoaned the difficulties of growing irrelevant, this album embraces the idea that not every track will be a hit, and not every album will be your best. LCD Soundsystem have aged gracefully out of their mid-life crisis, and while “This is Happening” proclaimed itself to be “the end of an era,” the era that this album ushers in is truly everything that long-waiting fans could have asked for.