Aluminium: 10 Years of Sound Of SilverStandard
LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
Released March 12th, 2007 on DFA/Capitol Records
Who sounds like they’re having more fun than James Murphy? In the middle of the Oughts, people thought dance-punk was something that honestly sounded like a good idea, probably because they heard a couple of old Gang Of Four records and thought they could inject some irony into the proceedings and call it a day (The Rapture). Along with a number of groups who thought they could get along doing the same thing, James Murphy started putting out a string of singles on his co-owned DFA Records label that were along similar lines to the other stuff that was going on in 2005, with a key difference: Murphy and LCD Soundsystem weren’t afraid to get funny as well as funky; it was this combination that made their early singles such successes, and their self-titled debut such a critical darling.
Sound Of Silver, their sophomore effort, turns that idea on it’s head. To be sure, it’s still funny as hell: the self-deprecating party kids of “North American Scum” make for great fun; the chorus of “Sound Of Silver” is good for a rueful grin. What Sound Of Silver really is, though, is poignant, and it rides that particular aspect far better than LCD Soundsystem rode snarky humour. “Someone Great” looks back on the lost, both broken relationships and dead people; “All My Friends” contains the immortal line “You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan / and the next five years trying to get with your friends again.” “Us Vs. Them” feels alienated from the crowd and all the sad drunk boys on their knees; “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” is exactly what it says on the tin – a nostalgia for the old septic New York City and an admission that sometimes the modern theme park version of NYC can get a little much.
Wrapping all of this feels is a slick, eminently danceable disco-punk that keeps moving without stopping (until the end, of course; “New York” is the perfect comedown for a sweat-filled night out). The effect is that Sound Of Silver sounds like a night out with your friends, the ones you haven’t seen in forever but for whom it feels as though no time at all has passed. You want the night to last forever and for a while it feels like it will but eventually you get exhausted and the city seems like a vulture waiting to pick your bones clean and then the sun comes up and there’s one last fleeting bit of glory before you stumble through the dawn streets to find your bed so you can collapse and pass out. It’s as much fun as it sounds.
Goodnight Prince, 1958-2016Standard
News has just broken over the internet that Prince Rogers Nelson – better known by his sole artistic name of Prince – has died in his Minnesota mansion at the age of 57. Although it was originally sourced from TMZ – and therefore was suspect – Prince’s publicist has confirmed it just now via Twitter.
Prince was, to put it simply, a pop music legend. Hailing from the rather unlikely beginnings of Minneapolis, Prince came to define both the sound of a city and the sound of an era. Marrying disco, R&B, soul, funk, and rock ‘n’ roll into a signature brew all his own, Prince scored a series of best-selling albums throughout the 1980s: Prince, Dirty Mind, Controversy, and 1999 were classics with his backing band The Revolution, and 1987’s Sign O’ The Times was a massive solo hit, both commercially and critically. Besides his music, he is also well-known for being a controversial figure in the music industry. In 1993, sick of the machinations of his record label, Warner Bros., he changed his name into an unpronounceable symbol and wrote the word “SLAVE” on his forehead before a prominent performance at the Brit Awards in 1995. He also banged out a large amount of material in a very short time in order to break himself out of his record contract, a tactic made possible by the fact that he was more prolific than the next fifteen musicians combined (excluding perhaps only Robert Pollard).
Now that he has passed on, that prolific nature will keep his name alive into the time of my grandchildren. Rumours of the insanely large size of his unreleased vault have abounded for years, and now that he’s died that vault will inevitably be opened and plundered for the wealth contained therein. Regardless of what comes out of there, however, he will always be best known for his creation of the post-disco sound of the early 1980s, which gave birth to the pop sound of the rest of the decade. It’s rare that one actually gets to use this line legitimately, but: Goodnight, sweet prince.
NZCA Lines – Infinite SummerStandard
NZCA Lines – Infinite Summer
Released January 22nd, 2016 on Memphis Industries
Some have opined recently – in forums, at any rate – that the concept album is dead. This rather bizarre pronouncement is typically preceded by a question, something along the lines of “What was the last concept album you heard?” and expounded upon by a legion of adolescent rockists talking about The Wall, and why no one makes albums like The Wall anymore, and about how this is somehow indicative of the general death of music at the hands of those awful soulless pop stars.
The problem here is that every one of these people expects their concept albums to sound exactly like The Wall: dreary, overly grandiose, weighted down with its Very Important Conceptualizations and dripping with self-indulgent notions of Art, notions that are seemingly inextricably tied with bluesy guitar solos and radio singles. Thus, when an album like The Monitor, or Hospice, or good kid m.A.A.d. city comes along, their status as being a “concept album” is dismissed in these circles as they’re “too noisy”, or “too indie”, or “hip hop”. The kids wearing t-shirts of their parent’s generation will never accept them because they didn’t live through the 1970s or they’re not beaten to death by Rolling Stone.
Infinite Summer is another one of those albums. Michael Lovett, along with Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley and Sarah Jones of Hot Chip, has put together a science fiction story that has a lot in common with the sort of mystical concepts prog bands used to drown their albums in during the latter half of the 1970s. The sun has grown to the size of a red giant, and the destruction of the world is imminent. Half of the world, a sweltering urban jungle, has decided to give up and embrace the destruction; the other half believes that there’s still something worth fighting for and wants to figure out how to rebuild civilization into something lasting. In true Matrix-style fashion, both sides have time to throw a gigantic rave.
The dismissal invariably occurs here because of the fact that this is a concept album built around synths, processed guitars, smooth vocals, and the legacy of Daft Punk. It’s a relentlessly moving Europop-style album, and its disco bona fides mean it’ll never be accepted by the rockists as being a “true” concept album. Granted, the idea kind of falls apart when everyone starts dancing despite the impending doom of the human species, but at the same time it works, given that it seems like the sort of thing the human race would do in it’s hour of destruction. The tracks also get a bit same-y for something so conceptual, but there’s always something you can hang your hat on for the next listen, so each spin of the record brings you deeper into its folds. That there are a lot folds here is testament to the trio creating it; it’s at once sweaty, romantic, and stylishly aloof, and in the place where these three meet is a great big heart beating for all of us.
Not every concept album needs to sound like The Wall, and Infinite Summer is infinite proof as to why.
Daft Punk – “Random Access Memories”Standard
Random Access Memories has become something of a divisive thing on certain online communities. There are many long-time Daft Punk fans who were salivating over a return to their Discovery glory days, and were loudly annoyed when they discovered through their leaked pirate links that the French duo had traded in big house tracks for a smoother, more chilled-out disco sound. Others, naturally, were very much turned on by these sounds, and with good reason: the album is likely the best disco album in years. There’s more than a whiff of California highway, Steely Dan-level breeziness surrounding the more upbeat tracks, such as the singles “Get Lucky” and “Instant Crush”. This love letter to the glory of the pre-punk era is still filtered through some essential Daft Punk synth-work; “Contact”, the closer, features a signature arpeggio riff repeated into infinity, with squalling support work revving things up to a Formula One-style racing speed. The drums, however, are much more organic, and that’s the point to Random Access Memories – at long last, eight years later, Daft Punk are finally human after all.
This turn towards the organic comes at a price, and those are the slower tracks on the album. “The Game Of Love” is at least erotic, like a Seventies sex jam with a vocoder, but “Within” and “Touch” both strive for some sort of artistic statement and fail to rouse even an ounce of such energy. They succeed on that level with “Giorgio By Moroder”, a nine-minute ode to the European disco era that arouses nostalgia I didn’t even really know existed, through an odd, captivating spoken word segment. As a revivalist album, it succeeds on multiple levels; since the modern music scene is hungry for reinvention of their parent’s sounds, expect these tracks to gain some real traction on both internet and terrestrial radio. Whether this is a “Daft Punk” album is up to the individual, but regardless of who made it, or why, it succeeds on its own shuffling merits.
FINAL MARK: A