on 3 March 2011
LCD Soundsystem, or at least James Murphy, will go down in musical history. They are a truly unique band that will be sadly missed.
The London Sessions is LCD's tribute to the late, great John Peel and, whether you enjoy the dance-punk of LCD or not, it is a fantastic piece of work.
Listening to openers 'Us v Them' and 'All I Want', it's incredibly difficult to believe that this is a 'live' recording. Murphy and the band are note-perfect and, whilst for purists this may take something from the 'live album' concept, you can't ask a band to screw up just to add character to a record.
It's true that because of this 'perfection' there's little added to the original studio versions of each track, but I don't think that this was the point. LCD Soundsystem have already created a legacy, but Murphy's respect for Peel and the ideal behind his 'Sessions' process meant that this was something the band had to do.
Little new here then, and I would've loved to hear 'New York I Love You...' in this form, but an incredibly enjoyable record and a necessary addition to any music collection.
If, as seems increasingly likely, LCD Soundsystem are on their way out, "London Sessions" may very well be the last record - and what an outdated word that is - released during their lifetime. The single, as such, is a redundant concept now. The days of walking, or getting the bus from the village to the local Woolworths, and finding the top 40 7" singles on a huge rack displayed at the front of the shop is so outdated it's ancient - even though that is only fifteen years ago. Woolies? Or as it's now known - Poundland.
But record is the word : a record is a recording. In whatever form it comes, even if a record is no more than a condensed set of MP3's/AAC's/etc/, a collection of songs in a deliberate order is an album. An album may be fractured, broken into pieces, ignored by those with short attention spans and mobile phones sodcasting their awful racket all over trains the country wide, and sold in a million jagged chunks across iTunes as "Singles" - LOOK YOU CAN BUY A SEVEN SECOND SEGMENT OF THE DOORS TUNING THEIR GUITARS LIVE IN NOWHEREBURGH FORTY YEARS AGO FOR NINETY NINE PENCE! - everything is a single. Or nothing is. With songs now no longer relegated to the idea of being a B-side, but instead tossed aside only as "Bundle Album Tracks" which you can only legally own if you have a specific mobile phone. What a waste.
As it is, "London Sessions" - prosaically titled - is a live-in-the-studio set of LCD Soundsystem performing in a studio somewhere in London. The live band - seven strong - whip up a tight sound reminiscent of Bowie's Berlin period fused with Disco ; nowhere is this more obvious than "Drunk Girls". Live, the music that sounds claustrophobic when assembled by a single man in a studio, lives and breathes. The notes are still exactly in the same place, certainly, but the alchemy of several people can be heard in the space between the grooves. The songs roll and flop and play, and Murphy's brilliantly irreverent vocal tics, lines, and phrasing sits on top the live band in a way that it never has on the albums : words jumble and fall, and a lyric becomes a stream of consciousness meandering on the nature of singing lyrics written from a piece of paper. No doubt highly rehearsed, but by it's nature, exposing the medium and the message, but never fails to rise a smile in the attentive listener.
To the untrained ear, it adds little, being relatively solid recitals of known songs with no major changes in format and presentation. In the olden days, these songs might be divided into a series of 12" b-sides, but with few singles these days, perhaps its better this way. To an extent, "London Sessions" is nothing more than a mid-tour live recording made in a studio in England by an American band, with not much reason to be released. In another way, it's an alternative best of package that perhaps has come too soon. In another way, it's a reflection of the gulf between the studio incarnation and the concert arrangements. But in another way, it's a fine place to start if you have an interest in them, even if this may very well be the end.