10 Years Ago: ‘Sound of Silver’ Presents a Sleek, Emotional LCD Soundsystem
A shoe manufacturer saved LCD Soundsystem’s second album. No, really. James Murphy, the prime mover in the dance-rock group, credits the Nike project “45:33” for rescuing him from a creative dead end. The musician was about halfway through making LCD’s second album in a Massachusetts barn studio covered in silver lamé fabric. He felt like he wasn’t just losing his touch, but also his mind.
“Making Sound of Silver was very emotional at times where I just hated making that record,” Murphy told Clash Music in 2010. “I wanted to kill myself. In the first half I wanted to kill myself. Then I made ’45:33’ and then that just calmed me down and the second half of the record was just a breeze.”
The Nike recording, in which Murphy agreed to make a running soundtrack (although he later revealed he paid the workout element no mind), gave him a diversion during which he could get away from his main focus. He took a break and returned to the Sound of Silver sessions rejuvenated.
What’s more, he even got a new song out of the side project. For one of the “movements” of “45:33,” Murphy had created a bloop-blip-chiming beat that he decided to repurpose for the next LCD album. With the addition of lyrics, it became “Someone Great,” one of Sound of Silver’s emotional highlights that ruminates on the death of Murphy’s therapist (George Kamen, to whom the album would be dedicated). It’s a paragon for the entire album – head-sticking electronic-rock rhythms paired with clever and often deeply felt reactions to grief, aging and the changing world.
Listen to "All My Friends"
Another great example is “All My Friends,” which achieved instant “classic” status in indie rock circles. Co-written by Murphy with bandmates Pat Mahoney (percussion) and Tyler Pope (bass, guitar), the whip-smart krautrock-inspired epic finds the frontman coming to grips with the passage of youth, the loss of time and how life just tends to pile up on people. It’s funny and sad and smart. Murphy has explained he was just trying to get the things that “occupy my brain” into the song.
“I worked really hard and, kind of, achieved things that I didn’t achieve when I was younger,” the multi-instrumentalist told World Café. “The result is a lot of wonderful things, but it’s also, I don’t get to do a lot of the things I did that allowed me to be here. Like, I don’t get to throw parties anymore, I don’t get to see my friends very much… It’s not a ‘woe is me’ song, really, it’s just a funny headspace to be in. And I think it’s an alienating thing, to a certain degree, to be in a band.”
There’s a melancholy that permeates the album. It’s allowed to run rampant on the Lou Reed-esque closer “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” – in which Murphy laments his city that has “a ton of the twist, but we’re fresh out of shout.” He playfully mocks New York on “North American Scum,” as well, while sending up American perceptions and perceptions of Americans on Sound of Silver’s rockiest tune.
Watch the Video for "North American Scum"
“I needed a song that I felt would be good to play live. It was the last song written for the album,” Murphy told Fact. “I wanted something we could rely on if the show wasn’t going very well. All I had was the title, ‘North American Scum’. … And I knew that it meant something complicated, that it didn’t mean something anti-American, which I don’t feel. For all the bad things, and stupidity and silliness of this country, it really still is kind of your choice what you are.”
With “North American Scum” as the lead single, LCD Soundsystem put out its sophomore album in the U.K. on March 12, 2007, followed by a U.S. release on March 20. Sound of Silver ended up becoming the group’s breakthrough record in LCD’s home country, with the album hitting No. 46 on the Billboard chart and inspiring tons of glowing press. The album, along with a few of its songs, ended up on the majority of 2007’s year-end lists.
“What I wanted to do on the second record was push farther into sounds that are more, more of a wider palette of sounds and worry less,” Murphy said. With the help of a shoe company, he was able to make that happen.
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