The fabled ‘American Dream’ is a concept that, for many, has officially died. The United States was once a bastion of hope and promise, setting a utopian example of society that (in spite of its many shortcomings) was the best our planet had to offer. In light of recent events, far fewer people feel that way now. And though LCD Soundsystem may not be directly addressing the fate of the nation’s ideological bedrock in their new single “american dream,” it is hard to think of frontman James Murphy closing the song by wailing the title in a half-sobbing falsetto as pure coincidence.
Nor is it coincidence that this track, more than anything they have ever written before, skews far more heavily towards a funeral dirge than a pop song. It is over six minutes long, contains the same progression of chords repeated over and over again, and continues to roll along in a single, languid time signature. It really should not work, but it is an unequivocally majestic song, immediately erasing any lingering doubts that the resurrection of LCD would be anything but a triumph.
This is achieved most immediately in the hypnotic instrumentation at play. Each melancholic note of the lead synthesizer cuts through the track like a laser beam, soaring over the lurching bass line and effusing a yearning that even Murphy’s anguished wails can’t convey. The great LCD songs always create a sense of atmosphere, but this is their first song in which the atmosphere is corporeal, calling to mind a surrealist dreamscape more Twin Peaks than Brooklyn warehouse party.
But as always, the meat of the matter lies in Murphy’s lyrical sensibilities, both piercingly affecting and frustratingly oblique. “You took acid and looked in the mirror / Watched the beard crawl around on your face” sings our narrator, lamenting a one-night stand or after-party gone horribly wrong in what seems one of his most autobiographical admissions yet. He dissects multiple concepts that shake us to the core, be it hope of “one true love…awaiting your big meeting” or the loss of youth or the futility of self-preservation in an ever-shifting world, but all of these pale in comparison to his conclusion.
“You can’t remember the meaning,” Murphy bemoans, before hurtling into his ethereal cooing of the forsaken American dream. It is a relatable symptom. But where he faults is in forgetting that his questioning and soul-searching set to music in his near two decades as LCD Soundsystem is not only meaning enough, but a crucial resource in providing meaning to the rest of us.
For more of our reviews, be sure to read our take on Gorillaz’ long-awaited album ‘Humanz’ right here.