James Murphy: a love letter

Tawny port before bed.

Here’s something great.

A while ago, I was listening to Fresh Air and heard a remarkable interview with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.

And I sort of fell in love with him.

In the interview, he presents the most down-to-earth philosophy of making music I think I’ve ever heard. I almost hate to use this word, but it sounded authentic. It sounded real. Sans bullshit. So I immediately went out in search of his latest record, ‘This Is Happening.’ I didn’t want to download it. I wanted to own the physical disc, which is a quirk of mine, or perhaps my generation, but I wanted to hold it in my hand, even if it was destined to slide into the computer and get ripped to iTunes, like everything else. When I’m buying music that I hope will have substance, I want that substance to be more than 0s and 1s on a hard drive. (And, yes, I know that a cd is just 0s and 1s on a compact disc, but a cd also has artwork and a nice little booklet, most of the time.)

I quickly fell in love with ‘This Is Happening,’ from the way the opener—’Dance Yrself Clean’—begins with a long and quiet intro that forces you to turn the volume up only to blast you in the face with a great synth riff at three minutes in, to the self-aware ‘You Wanted a Hit’ and ‘Pow Pow,’ to the sad and melodic and great closer ‘Home.’

In fact, if I could really nail it down, why I was so impressed by what Mr. Murphy had to say, I’d say that the way he talked about music reminded me of the way David Foster Wallace talked about writing. There just are not enough artists out there who are able to transcend the hype. Artists are almost always one of two things: cripplingly unconfident and embarrassed to talk about what they do in a knowing and interesting way, or embarrassingly over-condident in what they do so that they sound like douche bags when they talk about what they do, and come across as boring and self-involved (like those DVD ‘making-of’ featurettes that consist of everyone yammering on about how great the director is).

And perhaps the best part of it all is, he’s been saying all over the place that LCD Soundsystem is done. As a band that puts out albums every couple years and tours and does loads of interviews, it’s done. ‘This Is Happening’ is a great album, and it’s really satisfying when somebody bows out gracefully, rather than pushing their rockstar cred to its absolute breaking point (Tom Petty, anyone?).

So there you go. Favorite discovery of a band in maybe 10 years.