Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. The past was not how we remember it, and we simply will never relive whatever warm-fuzzies we think existed in the nebulous “back then.” Example: I will never get that soft-focus childhood Christmas, even after I’ve eaten a whole stack of Advent calenders in the attempt.
James Murphy, the man behind LCD Soundsystem, knows the allure of such straw-grasping exercises.
“Sound of Silver,” Murphy’s 2007 release, takes a long, hard look at some of the “Millennials'” hangups: early-onset, pseudo-mid-life crises and nostalgic longing for the ridiculously recent past. “You turned 25, and you’re all out of escapes,” he sings in “Watch the Tapes,” expressing a panicked, melodramatic sentiment that would be absurd except for the fact that it typifies the honest-to-god thinking of a shiny, new adulthood.
The epic pile-driver of the record, “All My Friends,” uses sentimentality over raw panic to create a compulsive dance song that elevates “running out of drugs” and drunken treks home at dawn to the stuff of sighing remembrance, the circular, ceaseless piano marching on as endlessly as the days of your life ticking by.
As Murphy layers progressively more chaos into the mix, you can’t help but be sucked into mythologizing your own analogous experiences as beautiful and precious, simply because they are gone: “You spend the first five years trying to get with the plan, and the next five years trying to be with your friends again.” In fact, listening to this song in the right context, I‘ve found myself overwhelmed with instantly produced nostalgia for the present, as illogical as that is.
Similarly, “Someone Great” has a persistently wistful content and real danceability (I think it’s the Glockenspiel that really pulls the whole thing together). The lyrics lend themselves to multiple readings, with the lost “someone,” possibly an ex-lover or a recently-deceased mentor: “You’re smaller than my wife imagined / Surprised, you were human.”
“New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down,” may be a nostalgic wax for a pre-9/11 NYC, but probably not the one you might expect. Rather than mourning a loss of innocence, this song pines for the filthy, unfriendly city that existed before terrorism turned everyone into a bunch of wishy-washy, falsely-patriotic dipshits. Murphy pines: “You’re safer and you’re wasting my time…so the boring collect / I mean all disrespect.”
On that note, the album’s rocker is a catchy little thing called “North American Scum” that superficially defends America from perceived cultural deficits, while nonetheless going over them like a laundry list (overzealous cops, ignorant citizenry), perfectly capturing the casual (however genuine) self-hatred held by US citizens born after the seventies. This song seems to pop up everywhere (“Stepbrothers”?) with seemingly no reasoning. But of course, no one really cares what the lyrics are in dance records, right?
Anyway, the story goes that the last 10 years or whatever have marked a major shift in cultural values (cultural-studies whatzits Howe & Stauss going so far as to declare an Emerging “Great Generation”), but some things never change, and if the Millennials have anything in common with their baby boomer parents, it’s chronic nostalgia and a genuine fear of adulthood. “Sound of Silver” has the unique ability to convey this feeling in all sincerity, without condemning it or endorsing it directly, which is pretty impressive for a dance record.