I remember very specific attributes of music throughout my life. Very tangible things, they seem real to me even now, like the way LPs look when they come out of the sleeve or album art that wows me into listening to something. These things stick with me, like the day we cranked LCD Soundsystem’s debut in high school, not really sure what to make of songs like “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and “Trials and Tribulations.”
At the time, all I knew was that those songs fit in nicely at dance parties. High school dance parties, at least, the ones where everyone’s parents would pick them up at eleven, twelve if they were lucky. I’ve been thinking about the first day I listened to that record a lot, especially with James Murphy’s announcement he would be retiring LCD Soundsystem, complete with Hawaiian shirts. It seems like LCD has been around forever and hardly at all simultaneously. I mean, I was 17 when his self-titled debut came out. Only six years have passed!
As for his music, Murphy has a knack for conjuring up individual memories. He seems to specifically pull them from you at the right time so that you can look at them objectively and inquisitively. Not to mention he shrouds these memories in the best of Roxy Music, David Bowie and the Misfits. His music presents a sort of chicken and egg dilemma: did I feel this way before his music or does his music make me feel this way? Have I been to that same party he’s singing about? Why do I miss my mid-twenties when I’m only 23?
It’s then that you realize Murphy disguises your memories as his own. It appears that he has placed your memories into his song, and this allows him to reiterate these unique thoughts throughout his records. Playing with iterations makes us feel the full extent of his intent in much the same way Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue works with a singular defining melody, or even how Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is blanketed in the same wistful romance and sexuality.
And we get sucked into the whole thing because he’s singing directly to us, twenty-somethings who are bored with consumerism and sleeping around and booze (well, not beer, but hard liquor). Look at how he reprises a melody from “Dance Yrself Clean,” begging for his listeners to look back to the beginning of the album. It causes us to stop and think about everything that has happened during that one hour, bookending an experience that can be extrapolated to cover our lives as young adults.
For that split second, when the “ahhhs” flow in album closer “Home,” music feels completely and totally commensurate. It feels like something we can all share because we all own the experience. He’s boiled it down to the vibrating strings of experience (take that Brian Greene!), and now we all have something that speaks directly to us.
However, the narrative he spins remains incommensurate because it leaves us with those questions I asked earlier about our relationship to Murphy’s music. We answer those based on our own experiences, a musical Mad-Libs content with making us feel nostalgic and young and totally invincible. In the end, this is happening all the time because of how Murphy structures his musical narrative.
The most important thing we can do with his music is share the experience with each other. My life continues to change in so many ways, ways I would have never imagined, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. “All My Friends” wraps up all of my experiences with friends in such a powerful way, allowing my memories to flow and bleed into one another. I see my life laid out in front of me, and I smile knowing that I would not trade one stupid decision for another five years of life.
This post is dedicated to my close friend Sir Isaac Newton, a dog who made all of our lives a lot better.
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