This Is Happening Again: Coming To Terms With LCD Soundsystem’s Reunion

jmurph

1. There are a plethora of catchphrases you can (and probably do) take from LCD Soundsystem’s catalog. Only one of them can be used in almost any emotional style you can imagine: “I was there.” The song “Losing My Edge” inhabited a gray area between self-serious and self-deprecating, the idea that you’re worried about maintaining your cool while acknowledging that it’s a stupid thing to worry about. I’ve found myself coming back to the phrase repeatedly this week.

2. I was there for LCD Soundsystem’s final show at Madison Square Garden in 2011. It almost didn’t happen, because I was shut out of tickets in the 30 seconds it took for the show to sell out in advance, similar to anyone else who wasn’t a ticket-scalping robot. A funny thing happened, though: while I was picking up a case of Four Loko in Queens for my 24th birthday party (oh God, that happened), my friend Tye managed to get four tickets from a friend at MSG and invited me since he knew they were my favorite band. I was ecstatic. The night itself was everything I could ask for short of Daft Punk themselves appearing on stage. I was, to put it mildly, extremely inebriated and sentimental and filled with joy that I got to experience this moment. This paragraph is a pretty good snapshot of my life nearly five years ago.

3. If you haven’t put it together by now, I was one of the people James Murphy was referring to in his blog post announcing the band’s return earlier this week. When the band’s reunion hit the rumor mill a few months ago, my gut instinct was that this was a terrible idea. You went out on top, why ruin that? In addition to fearing that the band’s legacy would be tarnished, I had my own selfish worry that my MSG experience would be ruined. Then again, I didn’t think they’d consider making another album, either. As Rob Harvilla noted in the cool dad version of this essay, James Murphy doesn’t owe me shit.

4. As a naive teenager, the idea of indie band reunions seemed great. I wasn’t there for the Pixies or Neutral Milk Hotel or Mission of Burma, letting these bands of my youth live like mythical creatures in my head and wishing for their return. As we’ve all learned over the past decade of festival culture’s toxic reunion cycle, it’s always sadder than you think. Your favorite bands come back balder and fatter and older, and so does the crowd. So do you. These reunion shows are a treat for people with kids calling in the babysitter, for people who got too old for shows and going out in general. It’s a sad, anxiety-inducing mirror if you’re prone to that mental state. Most of the time, I saw snapshots of my own future as one of the younger people in the crowd for something like the Dismemberment Plan or Guided By Voices reunion.

5. This anxiety was also mentioned by Murphy, pointing out that he always looked a stocky and disheveled. It’s a timeless look, in a way. Most of the other band members were older at the start, and keyboardist Nancy Whang will never not look like the raddest person on the planet. The more I’ve been chewing on the reunion, the more I’ve realized that this was a band built to last and rise from their self-imposed ashes. As a fan, we have subjective, increasingly complicated relationships with the bands we love.

6. I’ve changed in five years, and so have the members of LCD Soundsytem, for that matter. Most of the people I saw before, during, and after that final show have drifted into occasional acquaintances if I keep up with them at all. I got engaged, got a dog, left New York for New Orleans, and kept partying. I’ve stupidly spent chunks of my 20s feeling anxious and worried about getting older and feeling unfulfilled, that I wasted time that I can’t get back. I’ve learned, in a way, that I’m not worried about getting older, not really: I’m worried about losing my curiosity, my need to keep learning and seeking things out, about losing my capacity for joy. I don’t know if that means I’m worried about losing my edge, but I do know that plenty of people never lose the things I described.

7. James Murphy has always been one of the aforementioned people. As he’s mentioned in interviews, his 20s were essentially a wash before founding DFA Records and releasing his first singles under the LCD Soundsystem moniker at age 32. Now 45, he’s released three full-length albums in addition to running a label. His music, if anything, got better at an age where many lose their talents, their ideas, their curiosity.

8. A mentor of Murphy’s, Alex for Holy Ghost!, mentioned on the eve of the band’s final show that he thought James wanted to become David Byrne: to have his fingers in a ton of good ideas, to be a figure of eternal cool in New York, to not just be known as the guy from that one band. This proved to be a bad idea: Murphy started out innocently enough with some DJ gigs, producing an occasionally great Arcade Fire record, and being a man about town in a way he hadn’t in years thanks to his band’s time constraints. Over time, though, he began to have no filter for ideas: a coffee bean of his own design, a wine bar in Williamsburg, a whimsical idea to add music to a subway station that has a million problems to solve first. In a way, the Byrne experiment went awry only to show that even the coolest among us can represent the worst side of New York City’s increasingly food-obsessed, 1%-championing playground culture.

9. In that sense, LCD Soundsystem’s return should bring a sigh of relief, as Murphy himself says. The whacky side projects could have made us think he was finished, but this whole time it’s been trying to keep one thing at bay: the one thing James Murphy was put on Earth to do was make music with this band, and the fact that he had songs coming at him at such a rapid rate affirms that. He needs the band as much as the band needs him. They represented the city of New York’s underground cool for so long. As the songs noted, the city changes rapidly, now more than ever. Who knows which New York they’ll represent, if they bother with that charade at all. What made LCD Soundsystem my favorite band, though, aside from the music, is that as my life changed, my relationship to the songs changed in surprising, gratifying ways. I can only hope that continues from here.

10. It seems downright insane that, even for a moment, my favorite band returning would bring me anything but happiness. Chalk it up to those other reunions, chalk it up to my depressingly salty nature, whatever. On Christmas Eve, I was wrapping up an uncharacteristically fancy dinner the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans when I found out that LCD Soundsystem had dropped a surprise holiday single, “Christmas Will Break Your Heart.” The song, as many of the band’s past songs have, captured the moment for me: I had just gone through the pains of moving to another city for the first time in my life, had just finished a cushy job that drove me insane, and I was away from my family for the first time on Christmas to boot. “Christmas will break your heart / if your world is feeling small.” After dinner, we stopped home to change into comfortable clothes and get wasted with new friends at our new local bar in our new city. While my fiancé took the dog out, I listened to the song for the first time and felt a wave of relief and understanding wash over me. Then I played it again. It hit me as my fiancé did a series of twirls in our empty apartment: LCD Soundsytem are going to reunite, they have a new song, and it’s really fucking good. This is happening.

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