- With the pressure off, the band are audibly enjoying themselves on this live album.
- In 2017, LCD Soundsystem, one of the defining dance and indie acts of the recent past, took a massive risk. After calling it quits for good in 2011, they reformed and promised to write music that would match or surpass the three classic albums they'd already written. It was a plan that, by many people's estimates, paid off. American Dream was glowingly received by reviewers and the band, led by James Murphy, went out and did plenty of what they've always been great at: playing live. By comparison, Electric Lady Sessions, a collection of tracks recorded at the legendary Greenwich Village studio that draws heavily from American Dream but also includes a few older favourites and covers, is a safe bet. It highlights the long-standing chemistry between a group of talented musicians, and, unsurprisingly given the setting and Murphy's skill in the studio, the recording and production sound exceptional.
American Dream was an album that moved on a little from the detached cynicism that defined earlier LCD Soundsystem music, a feeling that only grows on Electric Lady Sessions. We also get less of what you might call emotional bangers, tracks in the style of "Someone Great" and "All My Friends" that are usually the sentimental high points of LCD Soundsystem live shows. Electric Lady Sessions instead chugs along happily with the wind in its hair. The choice of tracks keeps things mostly at a mid-paced clip. Peppy covers bookend the album and suggest that Murphy and co were mostly concerned with enjoying their time together. "Seconds," the opener, is so sprightly that it's easy to forget that the Human League track is a meditation on the JFK assassination, although in fairness the LCD Soundsystem cover is a faithful reproduction of an upbeat original. Nancy Whang's vocal leads the standout cover of Heaven 17's "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang," which again blends a hard-hitting lyrical theme—"Evil men with racist views / Spreading all across the land"—with a bright instrumental backing. It's a great choice of cover both for its fit with the band's sound and its not-so-subtle contemporary political commentary.
Whang also leads the cover of the Chic classic "I Want Your Love," which appears at the point in the session where the band really catches a groove. "Tonite" (from American Dream), "Home" (from This Is Happening) and "I Want Your Love" appear in sequence as if DJ mixed, the outro from one spilling into the intro of another. The energy and coherence of these 16 minutes suggests they lifted the idea from their live set-list. This energy also reanimates songs from American Dream, offering a chance to appraise their strength a little over a year later. I'm still finding the melodrama of "American Dream" difficult to love, even if it made sense in the context of the album, but "Call The Police," "I Used To" and "Oh Baby" all still sound great—perhaps, in some respects, even better than the originals. On "Oh Baby," in particular, everything sounds more free and spacious, with Murphy's vocals melding deliciously with the crisper drums and lighter bassline.
Other examples of this killer recording and production range from small, seemingly innocuous moments to full-on freak-outs involving every member of the band. Their version of 2010's "You Wanted A Hit" simply opens with Pat Mahoney stamping out a four-on-the-floor kick pattern with the drum mic picking up a little studio chatter. On the opposite end of the scale, "Emotional Haircut" climaxes with Murphy almost screaming "Listen to it now!" as the guitars and drums join together in a sort of highly lucid chaos. It's in these moments that the band seems to be saying, "Thank fuck we pulled that album off. Let's jam!"
01. Seconds (The Human League Cover)
02. American Dream
03. You Wanted A Hit
04. Get Innocuous
05. Call The Police
06. I Used To
09. I Want Your Love (Chic Cover)
10. Emotional Haircut
11. Oh Baby
12. (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (Heaven 17 Cover)