You could’ve seen this LCD Soundsystem reunion business coming if you’d looked hard enough—if you’d looked anywhere, in fact, for any length of time and with any degree of hardness. Hell, it was obvious to anyone who watched the full-length feature film devoted to their alleged final show, a Madison Square Garden sellout on April 2, 2011 that they hysterically (in multiple senses) referred to as their funeral. You could’ve set your Apple Watch to this shit, or at the very least your Twitter Outrage Advent Calendar.
The gimmick with 2012’s Shut Up and Play the Hits was that it alternated full-song footage of that emotionally fraught and galactically hyped farewell concert (LOL) with footage of frontman/mastermind James Murphy doddering around his apartment the next morning. He walks his dog while wearing pajama pants, says some goodbyes to band members, packs up some gear, and does a little crying and a stupendous amount of sighing. He looks terminally bored, instantly. I fucked up, is the subtext. Not even the subtext. There’s no other text. I am going to undo this decision just as soon as internet propriety allows, Murphy says with his eyes, and his body language, and basically his mouth; turns out that he waited just shy of five years. I’d have bet the under.
And that’s fine! It’s fine. You’ll be fine. LCD Soundsystem are great! They’re a dance band with better songs and a better live rock show than most rock bands. They got some jams! This is a jam!
That they got some jams is beyond dispute. (Well, not really, but a goodly percentage of people who hate this band actually just hate this band’s target demographic, here defined as “young, insecure New Yorkers and the older, even more insecure non-New Yorkers who spend most of their leisure time reading about young, insecure New Yorkers.”) What is in dispute is what a band that has so emphatically announced its retirement owes its fans, in terms of keeping their traps shut and their coffins closed. And the answer, as aficionados of everyone from Jay Z to KISS to Nine Inch Nails to Cher have discovered, is: not a goddamn thing.
I mean, is it funny in retrospect that the band’s run of “final” shows caused a scalper-based meltdown? Sure! Is it craven that they went on to release a five-LP vinyl box set of the MSG show called The Long Goodbye (LMAO) currently available on Amazon for ~$250? Hell, yes. (Buy it, man! I might get a cut!) Have Murphy’s public antics in the years since—the wine bar, the coffee, the long-threatened subway symphony—been twee and insufferable and troll-y in a midlife-crisis sorta way? Absolutely. But that’s just the point: If you think LCD’s gala resurrection is an eye-roller, let me politely suggest that the goofy bullshit Murphy would dream up to keep himself busy if he couldn’t play all those jams anymore would be far, far worse. Every hare-brained idea this dude has gets its own Shouts and Murmurs column. There is no more dangerous pair of idle hands in popular music.
The allegation is that LCD have cheapened their MSG farewell, and those superfans in attendance (wearing all black and white, as requested) have been retroactively denied the power and glory and catharsis and cultural cache of that experience. As with, say, the great Starbucks Holiday Cup Controversy of 2015, it can be hard to tell how many people are actually arguing this, if anyone. But Murphy, at least, per yesterday’s long, discursive, fascinating missive announcing that the band will tour and release a new album in 2016, is taking it very, very seriously:
but in my naiveté i hadn’t seen one thing coming:
there are people who don’t hate us at all, in fact who feel very attached to the band, and have put a lot of themselves into their care of us, who feel betrayed by us coming back and playing. who had traveled for or tried to go to the msg show, and who found it to be an important moment for them, which now to them feels cheapened.
Unclear if betrayed is their word or his, but it’s a hoot regardless. What’s amusing about this idea that a musical experience you once had is such a monumental and volatile part of your whole ethos that future musical experiences enjoyed by other, often younger people can totally ruin it is that one of the first big LCD Soundsystem songs is about that very idea.
“Losing My Edge”: also a jam! That the kids coming up behind will now have occasion to revel in this band’s excellence is their blessing, not your curse. Look, if Axl Rose ain’t turning down Coachella money, than you can’t expect Murphy to. (Leslie! Hello!) This is how the Festival Bubble works: It needs garish reunions, every year, which means it needs an equal number of preexisting garish breakups. R.E.M. will eventually reunite. The White Stripes will eventually reunite. The Smiths will eventually reunite. Mötley Crüe will eventually reunite. Embrace the narrative. Often, it’s the only weapon a band has left.
A final, personal note, if we’re all intent on being proprietary and emo about this: My own memory of LCD’s Madison Square Garden show is that I was 3,000 miles away, in a Northern California hospital where my wife was in labor with our first child. During, uh, a break in the action, when we were encouraged to think about other things for a few minutes, I scrolled through all the ecstatic live-tweeting action with, well, certainly not envy, but a certain goodbye-to-all-that wistfulness. It’s a surprisingly pleasant experience, just shy of a half-decade later, to have that melodrama punctured in this way. Don’t take it so hard. We’ll always have Cologne in 1968.
Lead photo by AP.