Monday, February 28, 2005

Album Review Compendium (Part 3)

LCD Soundsystem is the alter ego for backroom boffin James Murphy, a kind of Kanye West of the whole post-punk-revisited scene in New York. But if the self-titled debut album, which seeks to diffuse twenty years of influences into a kind of Sgt. Pepper's for pseuds, is Murphy's way of saying '...and this is me!' the listener might be entitled to reply, with apologies to Ze Records' Cristina, 'is that all there is?'

It's not that the album isn't without its' moments: lead single 'Daft Punk Is Playing At My House' provides goofy goodness, and 'Too Much Love' is a rare achievement of the type of sleek dissonance Murphy seems to be striving for throughout. Yet these moments of inspiration are spread all too thinly over the two discs, and the record's overall faults (the so-so singing; the sluggish beats; the over-familiarity of the influences and the lack of any real point to the lyrics) are simply too evident to ignore. Things do pick up with the bonus second disc (primarily remixes of previously available songs such as 'Losing My Edge' and 'Yeah!') where at least you can feel yourself wanting to dance, but elsewhere, all that cool just leaves Dead Kenny cold.

Even at their most popular, Tom and Ed of The Chemical Brothers were never really all that cool, but perhaps in the long run that's helped them get to their fifth album and still be troubling the chart compilers whilst so many of their contemporaries have disappeared into their diminishing returns. On Push The Button the boys have wisely allowed 'house singer' Beth Orton a gap year and minimised the pulsing instrumentals in favour of some judicious (and indeed prescient) use of guest vocalists such as Kele Okoreke from Bloc Party and hotly-tipped newcomers The Magic Numbers on two of the standout tracks (the insistent 'Believe' and the precious harmonies of 'Close Your Eyes' respectively). One-time PV reader Anna-Lynne Williams from Trespassers William also contributes on one track ('Hold Tight London'); Q-Tip energises the brilliant single 'Galvanise' and Tim Burgess weighs in on the pugnacious pop of 'The Boxer', so boredom is never an option.

The result is a warm and funky collection that never quite hits the peaks of the band at their best, but which sidesteps the longeurs and cliches which were in danger of setting in on their output. Perhaps the strongest criticism would be that for a dance record it's maybe just a little too polite for its own good: it's an album you'd be happy to call a friend and invite round at any time for a few beers, but you'd probably stop short of fucking it.

More album reviews to follow tomorrow in the concluding installment of this compendium.


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