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Album Review
This Is Happening

This Is Happening
by LCD Soundsystem

Label
DFA
Rating

Review Date
6/05/2010
Reviewed by
Ryan Eyers

After three studio albums, LCD Soundsystem haven’t changed much. They haven’t had to. From the outset, the James Murphy-led outfit has always felt like they’re onto something, like they’ve got a jar of secret awesome dust that they sprinkle sparingly over their compositions to give them the indescribable magic that they often possess. And on This Is Happening, as with the brilliant Sounds of Silver and their self-titled debut, as a listener there are plenty of moments where you’ll marvel, and wonder "how the hell did they just do that?"

Because when you listen to the nuts and bolts of the songs on This Is Happening, as ever, the ingredients are strikingly simple and unpretentious. LCD’s work is an exercise in minimalism: You’ll find no noodling solos, complex basslines or over-the-top beats; usually just the shuffling trio of hi-hat, snare and bass drum (or even less), throbbing bass, and a few guitar or keyboard flourishes, with some half-spoken, half-sung vocals laid over top. How then do they manage brilliance? Magic Dust?

More likely, it’s the fact that James Murphy is simply a great composer, one with a strong artistic vision and a reassuring confidence that what he’s doing is right. He knows exactly how to build a song up from humble beginnings, and give it the space to brew, grow and flourish. Like on opening track 'Dance Yrself Clean', where a recurring percussive patter is slowly joined by calmly delivered vocals and on/off bass notes before suddenly crashing through the speakers with a heavy beat and thick synths that will flatten you the first time you hear it. LCD’s ability to build tension and anticipation are on show throughout, like on 'You Wanted A Hit', where floating synth touches become anchored to a steady bassline and snowball into a driving, nine-minute epic that perfectly matches Murphy’s lyrical attack on the music industry’s emphasis on easily-digestible hits.

Lyrically, Murphy is as strong as ever, whether it be on the aforementioned 'You Wanted A Hit', the disarmingly tender 'All I Want', but especially on album highlight ‘Pow Pow’, which recalls the wry commentary of breakout single ‘Losing My Edge’, and shows off Murphy’s penchant for delightfully snarky hilarity combined a weary knowingness that can quickly strike home with salient precision.

Crucially, This Is Happening is still incredibly danceable, and despite all that can be said for its depth it still retains the essential quality that makes LCD Soundsystem’s music so addictive: fun. On top of that, with rumours that this may be their last record, This Is Happening feels satisfying, especially with near-perfect final track ‘Home’ collating all of the best elements of the album into a fully-formed closer that serves as a worthy conclusion to a record that builds on previous work and cements their position as dance-punk pioneers.






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