If the self-conscious hypercontrivance of James Murphy ever appears to you at odds with his relentless quest for abandon, I hear ya. The more attention you pay to what Murphy’s saying (e.g., his refrains of “present company excluded” peppering the first half of This Is Happening’s opener, “Dance Yrself Clean”), it seems, the tougher it is to trust him.
Personally, I can’t think about shit like that and dance at the same time, so the pleasures I’ve gotten from LCD Soundsystem (and there have been many) have been heavily situational — and usually in 12-inch as opposed to album form. Murphy’s albums — though generous with songs, bristling with stubbly irony, and sonically thick with that decade-defining post-house punch — have often felt more like albums in the other sense: little books in which to store smaller versions of bigger pictures. This Is Happening, his latest and purportedly last as LCD Soundsystem, might be no glaring exception — but it is exceptional.
“Maybe we don’t do hits,” he sings on “You Wanted a Hit” — “I try and try/It ends feeling kind of wrong.” He’s got a point: they might not write hits, but the track’s steady nine-minute throb is so perfectly measured, deftly scaled, and expertly colored that it matters not. Same goes for closer “Home” — a glorious, jumpin’, soft-focus summer jam with hooting synths, hand percussion strewn all over the place, flickering guitars, and Murphy sounding not just at ease but ecstatic over the possibility of being done. Does that make it sound as if he’d given up? He hasn’t. As its title hints, this overstuffed album of addictive party starters seems likely to be stuck in our present for a long time to come.