When LCD Soundsystem debuted in 2002 with the hilarious, hipster-spoofing single “Losing My Edge,” it set up the band and their label DFA, as the coolest things around. Driven by the vision of James Murphy, the band built on the disco-fied dance floor impact of the song, releasing timeless singles like “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” and “Drunk Girls,” as well as albums like 2007’s Sound of Silver that put the band firmly at the head of the neo-disco class. Along the way, Murphy showed a surprisingly poignant side on songs like “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” which stuck a deeper emotional chord than their more up-tempo songs. The band also became a huge live draw, eventually selling out a farewell show at Madison Square Garden in 2011. The re-formed Soundsystem returned with the vintage-sounding American Dream in 2017, then sporadically returned to fill clubs and in 2022 cranked out “New Body Rhumba,” a dancefloor-filling single that had the same sharp edge as ever.
Murphy cut his teeth in the ’90s, first as a member of Pony (an average post-hardcore band with heavy debts to its inspirations) and then with Speedking (a much stronger, more unique band.) All the time spent toiling in indie rock took a toll on Murphy, but he built his own studio and became increasingly adept at engineering and producing other bands. While working on David Holmes’ Bow Down to the Exit Sign, he struck up a relationship with programmer/producer Tim Goldsworthy that developed into a partnership. By the end of 2002, there were several releases on Murphy and Goldsworthy’s DFA label, most of which involved the duo in some capacity. LCD’s “Losing My Edge,” backed with an excellent neo-post-punk dance track called “Beat Connection,” was one of them.
Murphy eventually scattered three other LCD singles throughout the end of 2004 and released the full-length LCD Soundsystem in January 2005. At the time of its release, the DFA label was more popular than ever; Murphy and Goldsworthy had remixes for Metro Area, N.E.R.D., Le Tigre, and Junior Senior behind them, as well as failed sessions with Britney Spears that might have benefited from an interpreter. Janet Jackson was another unlikely admirer seeking the duo’s assistance, but Murphy didn’t bother to follow up on her request.
Murphy did respond to Nike, who commissioned him to record a lengthy piece of music as part of a promotion. 45:33, released in October 2006, was aimed at joggers, but Murphy later confessed that he didn’t jog himself — mixed martial arts were more his thing, he claimed — and was driven by the opportunity to make something in the vein of Manuel Göttsching’s early-’80s electronic landmark E2-E4. (DFA would later issue 45:33 on CD, breaking the track into six parts and adding three additional cuts.)
The second proper LCD Soundsystem album, Sound of Silver, was released in March 2007. It contained Murphy’s most affecting songwriting and peaked within the Top 50 of the Billboard 200. Led by the single “Drunk Girls” and an accompanying Spike Jonze-directed video, LCD Soundsystem’s third studio album, This Is Happening, was released three years later. Riding high on the acclaim the album garnered, the band toured the world with fellow dance-pop group Hot Chip for much of 2010. While in London on June 29 of that year, the group recorded a full-band session at Miloco Studio. The freewheeling recording of the show was released by DFA as London Sessions in January of 2011. Right around this time, Murphy announced that he was retiring the LCD Soundsystem name. The band played a farewell show at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York on April 2, 2011 and released the set the following year as The Long Goodbye: LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden.
In the years following, Murphy kept very busy with a variety of projects. He produced Arcade Fire’s Reflektor, remixed a David Bowie track, designed special 11-foot tall speakers for DJs, created his own brand of coffee, opened a wine bar, and did the score for Noah Baumbach’s film When We Were Young. In late 2015, rumors began circulating that LCD was re-forming, but these were quickly shot down by the band’s label, DFA. These denials proved to be a smoke screen and the group issued a new single, “Christmas Will Break Your Heart,” before the year’s end. Soon after, they announced plans to headline Coachella, play a series of live dates, and release a new album in 2016. While the effort did not materialize that year, LCD did deliver a pair of songs in May 2017, “Call the Police” and “American Dream.” They proved to be the first singles from American Dream, the band’s fourth proper album. Featuring Murphy playing most of the instruments, with help from live band members multi-instrumentalist Al Doyle, vocalist Nancy Whang, keyboardist Gavin Russom, bassist Tyler Pope, and drummer Pat Mahoney, the record was released in September of 2017 by the band’s new label home Columbia. It was their first album to reach the top of the Billboard Charts and the song “Tonite” won a 2018 Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. While the band was out touring the world behind the album, they stopped at Electric Lady Studios in New York to record part of their live set (along with covers of Heaven 17′s “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” and the Human League’s “Seconds”) for posterity under the title Electric Lady Sessions. The LP was released in early 2019 by DFA.
The band went on hiatus soon after, with Murphy stating that the group had no interest in touring again until they had released another album. They did soon decide to play a residency in late 2021at Brooklyn Steel, minus Russom, who had left the band. They also put together a sitcom/live performance/art piece with the help of Eric Wareheim that aired on Amazon, then the group appeared on Saturday Night Live in early 2022. All this activity spurred them to make plans for another series of live shows consisting of multi-night residencies across North America and England. They also went into the recording studio to record a track — the typically propulsive “New Body Rhumba” — for the soundtrack to Noah Baumbach’s 2022 film White Noise. ~ Andy Kellman & Tim Sendra