Yesterday, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem set the dance-punk world aflame when he wrote a letter to fans explaining the band’s return. Five years ago, Murphy announced the band's amicable break-up to the woe of their loyal fanbase, and they ended it with the biggest bang by performing a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden. You know when a movie frames a scene to utterly convince you someone died, then it turns out he was alive the whole time? Yeah, it feels kind of like that.
How can you attempt to rekindle a legacy like LCD Soundsystem's? If the farewell tour wasn't declarative enough, the band even put out an incredibly well-made documentary that followed Murphy on the day of his last show. At one moment, looking over all the gear that he and his friends have lugged around for over a decade, Murphy chokes up.
Which, you know, makes it a bit hard to blame the guy for changing his mind. Really, no one's ever 100 percent sure about any decision — it's just that Murphy's decision held the memories and sentiments of millions of fans in the balance. And instead of brutishly defending his choice, with the letter Murphy basically makes himself a dunk tank volunteer. He even deems the “Oh, fuck that guy” response a perfectly valid one to his change of heart.
This complicates potential reactions. For all the praise LCD Soundsystem received, Murphy's could easily be the most punchable face in the indie world. (Luckily, that title still belongs to Win Butler.) His band was critically lauded but never managed sustained commercial success — which Murphy never wanted, of course. And when their last album, 2010’s This Is Happening, hit the U.S. Top 10, he decided to pull the plug on the whole deal.
But against all odds, Murphy still comes across as a humble, relatable dude who’s spent a lifetime mastering his “slept-in” aesthetic. This kind of comeback usually reeks of cash-grabbiness or feels like the result of boredom, but in his letter Murphy says his main motivation was that he just couldn’t stop writing songs. It's believable. Regardless of the profession, whenever you step back from a project, that’s the moment you’re mercifully graced with creative inspiration.
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With any revival, the part that worries fans most is whether the band will retain its identity. Murphy acknowledges this right away — he says calling his group “LCD Soundsystem” without 14-year-long bandmates Pat Mahoney and Nancy Whang would be genuinely horrifying. And he’s right, because the group’s willful disbanding froze a specific idea of them in time. To wake that idea from cryogenic sleep and attempt to reanimate it could only be unethical, right?
Murphy and his dance-punks created a sound that somehow simultaneously felt like it was trying too hard and not trying at all. He created electronic music that didn’t turn its nose up at listeners, instead inviting them to dance and whine and laugh in unison. And that's what people have been doing. They've developed attachments and lived their lives to songs by a group that was already broken up by the time some of them discovered it.
Murphy, always empathetic, apologizes in the letter to those people. Murphy knows that you have that distinct memory of rocketing down the highway playing “Dance Yrself Clean” and feeling your skull pound when the song explodes three minutes in. And he doesn’t take that knowledge lightly. He knows he has to meet J.J. Abrams-levels of expectation with the band's new album, and it’s entirely possible that he can meet those expectations. If you're able to separate from the band emotionally, the result can only be a net gain.
Fans who discovered them too late now have the chance to see them live, get excited about their new album, or even just watch a concert stream from Coachella. Five-and-a-half years ago on their farewell tour, LCD Soundsystem couldn't even sell out their Dallas stop at Southside Ballroom. Don't expect anywhere near even that turnout if they come back to Dallas. And if their new album flops, hopefully they'll at least remember to shut up and play the hits.