I’m fully aware that I’m probably the 53,821st blogger to stick this song up on his/her blog, but y’know I was busy before Christmas and this is my party and I’ll put up flogged-to-death videos if I want to. It seems like the phrase du jour is “*insert track name here* is my jam” – well if I was pretentious enough to go down that route I’d be saying “Live Alone is my jam”, and considering I’ve used the words “du jour” already in this post, I’m clearly pretentious enough. So: Live Alone Is My Jam.
I generally found LCD Soundsystem to be one of those bands it was easier to admire than love. They clearly ticked a lot of yr standard boxes for cool/alternative/etc music, but there was always a suspicion for me that it was all a little too planned and considered. It was kind of like all the ingredients had been put together for the hippest, coolest band ever, but there was something missing – I guess whatever element it is great bands have that you just can’t plan for.
Maybe it’s soul? Maybe that’s a little harsh.
Anyway it seemed like James Murphy was not only too clever for his own good, but knew he was too clever for his own good. Like waves of cleverness and archness folding in on itself. From day one, with “Losing My Edge” and the like he was acknowledging his pose and his stance and ultimately his weakness. Now, this made LCD Soundsystem infinitely more interesting that yr standard New Hip Act. But it could be kind of infuriating too.
I do think there is room for cleverness in art. I think, in fact, it can be a pretty key component in its appeal. The standard appeal of art, as far as I see it, is in empathy. We like to see stuff we can relate to. We want to know we are not alone. We want to know someone else out there feels as we do. We want to be free to project ourselves on others.
Now cleverness fulfils something similar, yet far more nuanced and less conscious. I think if a band makes a clever lyrical or musical reference, and we get it, then we feel a connection too. It might not be an emotional connection, but it is an intellectual one, of a sort. And we all feel good if we feel clever. So, perhaps clever music like LCD Soundsystem’s works because it makes us feel clever too. We’re in on it. We get what the cool guy who digs through record crates is doing.
I’m pretty sure similar arguments could be made for literature or films or TV. I love the farce and the jokes in Frasier, say, but I also like getting the references to the snobbier, cleverer stuff. I like books that don’t necessarily spell everything out, that give me enough credit to understand the allusions or whatever other stuff the author is throwing in there beyond just the plot.
Sometimes I don’t just want the sense of empathy that art offers. I want it to stroke my ego too.
I’m not a big man, I admit.
And perhaps that is where the weakness of LCD Soundsystem came in – not enough heart. Sure, it was there sometimes, but there were times when it felt like a rather dry exercise in hipster satisfaction.
So, then this, their last song comes along and hits me right in the gut. Every time I play it. I’m not sure I want to pick apart why too much. Maybe it being a cover version helps. But then, it is a cover of a Franz Ferdinand song – another band I admire, like in parts, but feel are just a little too mannered at times. Perhaps the cleverness and archness from both bands cancelled themselves out. Perhaps that is a silly idea. Maybe it is just a great video. Maybe just a great song. Maybe I missed the point before. Maybe James Murphy played it straight for once. Maybe I should just stop worrying about the head-stuff and let the heart-stuff have its moment and not ask why. And just listen.
And, while I’m here, here is the trailer for the doc of their last show…I don’t really know what to make of it. But his apartment sure is shiny and white.