This Is Happening
Being misunderstood is a career hazard when your career involves being the front man and principal songwriter for LCD Soundsystem. But even James Murphy seemed taken aback when, a week after the Internet debut of "Drunk Girls," the first single off his band's third and supposedly final LP, This Is Happening, a "fan-made" video for the song appeared on YouTube.
It was not kind: To the bounding strains of what had been originally conceived as an ironic, self-deprecating "White Light/White Heat" homage, photographs of young women slowly rotated – passed out, partially clothed, vomiting, uniformly compromised.
"Can someone just erase that thing?" a dejected Murphy pleaded on his Web site. "It makes me kind of sick."
YouTube and their lawyers eventually obliged, and Spike Jonze stepped in to direct the song's official, non-objectifying video. But Murphy, whose elect status in his adopted city was cemented by writing perhaps the single finest depiction of what it was like to be youngish in New York in the first decade of the 21st century in 2007's "All My Friends," found himself in an unfamiliar position.
Much was made of the fact that he recently turned 40. One site dubbed him "Creepy Uncle New York." The man who had spent most of the aughts explaining his generation to itself went to L.A. to make a record, and returned to find the kids yet again coming up from behind.
How convenient. On 2002's "Losing My Edge," Murphy famously listed his record collection as a bulwark against irrelevance, and in doing so, became himself a kind of geographical/generational shorthand. This not totally enviable burden, neatly taken up on 2007's Sound of Silver, a record sung almost entirely in the first-person plural, is set pointedly aside on This Is Happening.
What "Drunk Girls" actually is, it turns out, is an apologia: "Just 'cause I'm shallow doesn't mean that I'm heartless," Murphy sings. "Just 'cause I'm heartless doesn't mean that I'm mean."
What else is there to do when you've had your heart broken? As much as their front man likes to talk about his affinity for "dumb body music," as he put it to London's The Guardian, LCD Soundsystem's truly indelible stuff has always been their most muted, wounded and acid.
On everything from "Losing My Edge" to Sound of Silver's "Someone Great" and "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down," Murphy has been at his best when he has had a target to aim for, and whoever walked out on him during the writing of This Is Happening certainly provided that. What's "body music," anyway?
"Tell me a line, make it easy for me," he pleads on "I Can Change." "Open your arms, dance with me until I feel all right."
This Is Happening is about the way the things you love can ruin your life. It's about getting what you want and not wanting it anymore. And it's about how the salvation that Murphy has chased across dance floors through three records and nearly 30 years of being in bands can't really ever be found on a stage, no matter how hard you look for it or try to will it into existence.
"Love and rock are fickle things," Murphy sings on "Home," the sigh of a song that ends This Is Happening and maybe the entire LCD Soundsystem project along with it. "And you know it."
Maybe not before. But we do now.
The dedication ceremony for the Lightnin' Hopkins state historical marker is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, November 13, on the grounds of Project Row Houses at Dowling and Francis streets in the Third Ward (near "Lightnin's Bus Stop"). Speakers and performers will be announced soon.
Blind weekend passes for next year's Free Press Summer Fest, scheduled for June 4 and 5 in Eleanor Tinsley Park, are on sale now at www.freepresssummerfest.com. Prices are $15 (general admission), $32.50 (Fancy Pants) and $650 for the two-person High Roller package, which includes a hotel room for Saturday night.
If you can't make it to Austin for this weekend's Austin City Limits Music Festival, don't worry: The Houston Press will be covering the festival all weekend and posting regular updates on our music blog at blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks.
88 E. Crosstimbers, 713-694-6800
1. Trae, Can't Ban the Truth
2. Trey Songz, Passion, Pain & Pleasure
3. Lil Boosie, Incarcerated
4. Fantasia, Back to Me
5. Lee Williams, Through the Years
6. Gucci Mane, Appeal: Georgia's Most Wanted
7. Donell Jones, Lyrics
8. Nicki Minaj, Nakita
9. Drake, Sincerely Yours
10. John Legend & the Roots, Wake Up
Pe-Te's Cajun Bandstand
KPFT (90.1 FM), www.kpft.org
Selections from Pe-Te's September 25 playlist
1. Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys,
"Between Eunice and Opelousas"
2. Waylon Thibodeaux, "My Baby Don't Wear No Drawers"
3. Curtis Poullard & the Creole Zydeco Band, "Boogie Zydeco"
4. The Savoy Family Band, "Bayou Two Step"
5. Hunter Hayes & Louisiana Hot, "La Valse de Bayou Teche"
6. Walter Mouton & the Scott Playboys, "J'ai été au bal"
7. Fred Charlie & the Acadiana Cajuns, "Eunice Waltz"
8. Savoir Faire avec Paul Daigle, "Lacassine Special"
9. Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie,
"Everybody's Having Fun"
10. Cedric Benoit, "Golden Lady"
(lists compiled by Chris Gray)
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