Of the many arresting moments that fill LCD Soundsystem's This Is Happening, perhaps the most unexpected comes less than halfway through album opener "Dance Yrself Clean." The seemingly unassuming, low-key rumble of a song morphs from its mumbled beginnings into an outsized flash of synth ballast and wailing vocals. The sudden shift is like the flicking on of a light, the perfect example of frontman-songwriter-mastermind James Murphy's effortless balance of restraint and release, organic rock and electro pop, and muted cool and vibrant emotion. This study in contrasts pervades LCD Soundsystem's third, and possibly final, release--an album where Murphy refracts images of heartbreak and longing through the scattered light of a disco ball.
The cautious observations and honest reveals that follow are literally and figuratively quieter moments than that initial blare. On "All I Want," against a wall of whirling guitar, Murphy recognizes a relationship that can't be saved, and instead asks for "your pity" and "your bitter tears." "Get Along" shuffles over pulsing keys and bubbling percussion as Murphy tries to bridge physical and emotional distance, singing, "You might forget, forget the sound of a voice / Still, you shouldn't forget the things we laughed about." Conversely, the sparsely decorated, sauntering "Somebody's Calling Me" is almost hopeful in comparison: "Somebody's calling me" Murphy half whispers, "to be my girl."
There are stretches of lyrical levity here, too. "You Wanted a Hit," which sits atop shiny synths, a driving bass-line and layers of handclaps, laments record label demands on what turns out to be one of the album's hookiest tracks. "Pow Pow" veers toward past "talkies" like "Losing My Edge," and features keyboardist Nancy Whang shouting in unison with Murphy.
With This Is Happening, Murphy has created a work of both nuanced introspection and distanced observation. DFA is proud to offer the vinyl version of this much lauded release, which also includes contributions from drummer Pat Mahoney and sound collagist Gavin Russom.