LCD Soundsystem raises glass to "Drunk Girls"

Sat Apr 24, 2010 11:29am EDT

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem performs at Virgin Festival at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, August 4, 2007. REUTERS/Bill Auth

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem performs at Virgin Festival at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, August 4, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Bill Auth

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NEW YORK (Billboard) - Just days after LCD Soundsystem's new single, "Drunk Girls," leaked online, a companion video of sorts hit YouTube.

As the first taste of the band's third album, the song had already set tongues wagging, from Pitchfork awarding it a "Best New Music" tag to Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield hailing it as an early contender for single of the year.

Clocking in at an uncharacteristically short 3:44, "Drunk Girls" is LCD's most straightforward rock song yet, with an unembarrassed "Heroes"-era Bowie guitar line, "Pump It Up" drums and a perfectly catchy low-brow refrain. Some longtime fans heard it as an unbecoming grab for jock-jam status. And the video, a conspicuously well-produced compilation of Facebook-profile-pilfered photos and camera phone videos of the extremely inebriated, seemed to reinforce those fears, especially given the clip's professional-level edits. Was this LCD mastermind James Murphy's meta-version of viral marketing?

"That repulsive video of throwing-up college girls gone wild?" Murphy asks the next week, emphatically denying his team's involvement. "No. That's kind of everything I loathe."

While he recognizes that the song could become a misogynistic frat-boy cheer, he remains unapologetic when it comes to his original intent. "I just wanted something dumb," he says. "I like dumb, short stuff."

No one can accuse Murphy of being dumb. In the 10 years since he formed LCD Soundsystem as a one-off Williamsburg, Brooklyn, party band, he's created the most compelling and witty rock'n'roll dance music to come out of New York since David Byrne put the big suit in mothballs. And without meeting any of the benchmarks bands once used to gauge success -- LCD has only average record sales and negligible airplay -- the group is in a powerful position heading into the May 18 release of "This Is Happening" and the start of a year-plus touring cycle.

Commercially, the fist-pumping "Drunk Girls" may prove to be the song that threads the needle, bringing Murphy's hipster piss-take to the masses with its official, hilariously chaotic one-take Spike Jonze-directed video and a serious push for new fans by EMI.

The album's other tracks hew closely to the signature LCD sound: analog synthesizers, processed guitars, expertly programed beats and layers of live drums and percussion. But Murphy's songwriting and singing have matured in the three years since the "Sound of Silver" album was released.

But more than anything, it's LCD's live show that keeps the people coming back for more. Now touring as a seven-piece, the band has added an official new member -- Gavin Russom, who built the two synth rigs that anchor the tours -- and a new guitarist, the Melvins' David Scott Stone, has been added into a rotation that includes Hot Chip's Al Doyle and !!! guitarist/bassist Tyler Pope (who recently rejoined the band after a three-year absence). They augment longtime percussionist Matt Thornley, keyboardist/vocalist Nancy Whang and drummer Pat Mahoney.

Onstage at the Coachella music festival earlier this month, dressed in a white suit under a giant spinning disco ball in front of a polo field teeming with hands-in-the-air dancing fans, Murphy proved to be as compelling a frontman as any of the rock stars whose oeuvre he both studies and mocks. He takes on songs from all eras of the LCD songbook, from new tunes like "I Can Change" and "Pow" to a recharged "Losing My Edge," with the confidence of a man fronting a band firing on all cylinders.

"This is the pinnacle of what this band is going to be," Murphy says. "By the end of this touring cycle, I think we'll be as good as we get. I don't see us getting better."

Indeed, just as LCD seems poised to break through to a wider audience, Murphy has already set the countdown to the end of the line. As he first announced during a BBC interview last month, he fully intends to wind down the band at the end of this touring cycle, which will run a minimum of 18 months.

"I love this band," Murphy says. "I love what we do, I love everything about it. But at a certain point the only reason to repeat yourself instead of trying something new is money. And that's just not a good enough reason. There are other things that are important to me, like the label and production and working with my friends.

"I'm 40," he concludes. "I like doing other stuff too."

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