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LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

Released by DFA/Virgin, 5/18/20

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Sparking disappointment in twenty-something partygoers everywhere, there have been rumors floating around that This is Happening, James Murphy’s (aka LCD Soundsystem) third album, will be his last. And to some extent, it makes sense that Murphy has grown weary of his LCD project — goodness knows he spent enough time trying to get it off the ground.

In many ways, Happening is a well-honed homage and last testament to Murphy’s LCD career, stuffed with danceable hits that appear ready-made for someone’s dorm dance party, club night or mixtape playlist.

This is Happening kicks off with “Dance Yrself Clean,” a bitterly worded, punching, synthy, catchy-as-hell, nine-minute explosion of Murphy’s penchant for dance music. “Dance Yrself Clean” is followed by the only disappointment on the record titled “Drunk Girls,” which might be Murphy’s attempt to satirize those ubiquitous, horny beasts, otherwise known as drunk girls. While the track isn’t necessarily bad — anyone would still get down to it at the club — “Drunk Girls” is the album’s middling tragic flaw in a sea of hooky, memorable, mildly self-analytic songs.

The album continues with satisfying dance track after dance track, many of which stretching past the seven-minute mark. “One Touch” is a tittering, spastic build up of energy while “All I Want” takes it down a notch with contemplative electric guitar and bittersweet keyboard melodies.

“All I Want” is likewise Murphy’s best attempt at singing on This is Happening, stacking a chorus of DIY harmonies beneath his vocals. “From now on, I'm someone different / 'Cause it's no fun to be predicting / From now on, there's / 'Cause I just want what I want / Take me home.”

Murphy’s never been much of a singer, choosing instead to let his complex production arrangements and dance-pop awareness speak for itself (there’s a reason someone stuck Kermit the Frog in a rendition of “New York I Love You” on YouTube). Kermit-voiced or not, Murphy manages to make a singer of himself on This is Happening.

If LCD Soundsystem was an ironically self-aware record, and Sound of Silver was its older, wiser, even slightly jaded counterpart, This Is Happening sounds like the prequel. It’s a record crafted by an extremely talented production guru who may feel as though he’s got a little less to prove this time, and he’s ready to just sit back and attend the party, instead of DJing it.

There’s no doubt that Murphy is singing a swan song — pumping out the jams because it’s his God-given talent, but that doesn’t mean he’s belting out much touchstone balladry. Murphy chooses instead to keep this goodbye straightforwardly simple, and if you look past the production loops, perfectly poignant.