Mixtape Madness: Saying Goodbye to LCD Soundsystem
Critically acclaimed dance-punk revisionaries LCD Soundsystem play their last string of shows this week, culminating in a massive farewell performance at Madison Square Garden. On this week’s tape, we say goodbye to James Murphy’s brainchild in our own way
Goodbyes are always tough. Formulating the words to convey how you feel about someone and how much you’ll miss them requires a great deal of vulnerability, which is not the most fun emotion to let someone else see. Because we at Death and Taxes are no different then anyone else, we’re going to say goodbye to LCD Soundsystem through some great tunes that could say it way better than we could.
New Order – “Every Little Counts”
We open with a deep cut from New Order. The closing track off the underrated “Brotherhood,” “Every Little Counts” is a cheery synth ballad akin to Yaz’s “Only You,” but it carries with it a note of bittersweetness in the line, “I guess I should have known I’d end up on my own,” indicating a parting of ways. It would be a perfect wedding song for post punk loving couples if not for that line (and its chaotic ending), as the rest of the lyrics focus on devotion and how every single moment together is important. Much like LCD Soundystem’s career, from the opening noise of “Losing My Edge” to the understated cool breeze of “Home,” every second counted.
The Magnetic Fields – “How to Say Goodbye”
Stephin Merritt is an expert on love songs, probably because none of his songs are personal accounts of anything. Like a screenwriter, he enters the minds of his characters and gives them all distinct attributes pertaining to the story. In “How to Say Goodbye,” it’s from the perspective of a rejected lover where the only thing he or she has to say to about the other person is that they know how to make a memorable exit. In the case of LCD Soundsystem, they’re saying goodbye in New York’s biggest venue, playing to a sold out crowd, with one of their favorite bands, Liquid Liquid, opening. Not a bad farewell even if it did cause countless fans to overpay scalped stubhub prices.
Jeff Buckley – “Last Goodbye”
When it comes to goodbyes, no one said it better than Jeff Buckley. His biggest hit during his life, “Last Goodbye” remains one of the most dignified break up songs ever penned. The emotion in Buckley’s voice is palpable, starting with resignation before firing up to a yearning croon. James Murphy by no means plans to retire from music, but this week’s five night stand in New York will unfortunately be our last goodbye to deliver personally to him and his band.
Blur – “Battery In Your Leg”
“A ballad for the good times.” Before Blur’s unexpected reunion single, “Fool’s Day,” last year, this song was the last recorded before Graham Coxon’s departure, making an already forlorn ballad even more despondent. Coxon’s clangy guitar plucks along like a ghost floating away from the band while the rest shuffle along in a broken slump. Luckily, Damon Albarn, Alex James, and Dave Rowntree managed to handle “Think Tank”‘s other 12 songs quite well by themselves, but Coxon’s absence was certainly felt and by using “Battery in Your Leg” as the album’s closing number, they clearly held at least some sentiment for their old friend. Said to be a song about the band, the lyrics seem to be directed right at Coxon, and for our relating it to LCD Soundsystem, a message aimed squarely at James Murphy – “don’t get up on the evil things/you ain’t coming back/but you could be with me/if you want to be.”
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “She’s Leaving”
From their brilliant “Architecture & Morality” album, “She’s Leaving” was a testament to how human and beautiful synth-based pop songs could be. While James Murphy will most likely keep himself in our sights much like Jack White has already been doing since the announcement of the White Stripes’ split, one can only wonder about the rest of LCD’s arsenal, most particularly Nancy Whang. While the band has always been Murphy’s baby, Whang has always been the frequently visiting aunt. Having stuck by Murphy since his first single, in addition to her live synthesizer work, her backing vocals have been a quintessential element to the LCD catalog, whether it’s her shout outs on songs like “North American Scum” and “One Touch,” (the latter of which she co-wrote), or little rhythmic earworms like her schoolyard chant in “Get Innocuous!” She’ll always have the Juan MacLean, but for a lot of us, she’s leaving.
The Cure – “One More Time”
As far as synth-pop ballads go, in just a few years, groups like the Cure would make them a lot more expansive as can be heard on the “Plainsong” precursor “One More Time.” Murphy claims to hate love songs, so it’s unlikely he would enjoy the sentiment of someone equating his final LCD show with Robert Smith being taken into someone’s arms a last time – but for those who’ve known the magic of their shows in the past, by the time it gets to “New York I Love But You’re Bringing Me Down,” it really does feel that warm and fuzzy.
M83 – “Farewell/Goodbye”
Playing like the descendant of a song like “One More Time,” M83’s “Farewell/Goodbye” is a lush dreamscape from their album “Before The Dawn Heals Us.” Bathed in lush keyboards, the song is basically a blueprint for their sound and a continuation of the concept that electronic music can be just as emotional as guitar music. LCD Soundsystem proved this themselves with songs like “Someone Great” and “I Can Change,” both of which find Murphy at his most vulnerable.
The Smiths – “Rubber Ring”
A sadly underplayed Smiths b-side, the song carries with it some of the most important lyrics Morrissey ever wrote considering a heavy percentage of the group’s fans were disillusioned teenagers. “Don’t forget the songs that made you cry, and the songs that saved your life…because they were on the only ones who ever stood by you.” Johnny Marr backs this up with a shuffled groove that eventually boils to a rocking climax, reinforcing the strength of the song’s message. It’s vital to know that the music will always be there when we need it, and that when we’re laughing and dancing and finally living, we can think of James Murphy’s voice kindly.
The Beatles – “In My Life”
When in a reflective, nostalgic mood, nothing really is more appropriate than “In My Life,” a song John Lennon originally wrote as a poem about his childhood which he mostly trashed in favor of lyrics reflecting on his life as whole. For a life like James Murphy’s, LCD Soundsystem was a long time coming. Having been in three unsuccessful bands (Falling Man, Pony, and Speedking), and spending years engineering and DJing, he finally formed his own label, DFA, alongside former UNKLE member Tim Goldsworthy in 1999. Proving that American lives can have a second act, Murphy released his first single as LCD Soundsystem, “Losing My Edge,” in 2002. From there on in, the man could do no wrong, with three critically acclaimed albums and a fanbase that would buy out a week’s worth of shows in one city alone in minutes (although evil scalpers are a big part of the blame). Murphy has a lot of great things to look back on and his noble exit at the top should be forever remembered and respected.
LCD Soundsystem – “Someone Great”
A heavenly continuation of the groundwork his synth forefathers laid down all those years ago, “Someone Great” first appeared in instrumental form on LCD’s longform song cycle, “45:33,” hyped as a glorified Nike commercial but used as an homage to Manuel Göttsching’s “E2-E4.” “Someone Great” might just be the best song Murphy has ever written (although “All My Friends” and “All I Want” come close). The words, cryptic but meaningful, are specific in emotion, but malleable enough to make it mean whatever the listener needs it to mean. Lines like “what’s worst is all the lovely weather” is a feeling we’ve all been through when the world doesn’t seem to be feeling our pain, and there’s of course the lines about alarming phone calls and irregular breathing which can mean anything from a breakup to the death of a loved one. All the theories find their harmony in the common realization that “someone great is gone.” For right now, it’s a song about LCD Soundsystem.
That’s all for this week’s tape. We hope you got a ticket to at least one of this week’s shows. Despite several attempts, MSG wasn’t in the cards for me, but I’ll be stopping by Terminal 5 tonight to pay my respects. I’ll leave you with this House favorite from Last Rhythm as a pump up for one last rave up.
Last Rhythm – “Last Rhythm”