Fewer 808s, More Heartbreak: LCD Soundsystem's This Is Happening

On James Murphy's sardonically devastating new record

Weirdly, neither of these two songs contains Happening's most abject moment. That'd be the aforementioned "I Can Change," on which album-wide production lodestar Brian Eno gets a spooky Thomas Dolby update, a bit of self-mockery on Murphy's part that doesn't even begin to obscure how fucking awful the feeling he's describing here really is. The knock on Murphy these days is that he's too hard on people, and maybe a bit unmindful of that ambient adolescent need that explains all the bad decisions and betrayals past LCD Soundsystem songs have chronicled in such appalling and extensive detail. But "I Can Change" is just about the most blunt depiction of that condition ever put to tape. "I can change," he swears, "If it helps you fall in love." Never has Murphy's extraordinary ability to see himself as if from the outside of the situation he's describing made for such a self-lacerating moment: "Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry/And this is coming from me."

This Is Happening is about the way the things you love can ruin your life. It's about getting what you want and not wanting it anymore. And it's about how the salvation that Murphy has chased across dance floors through three records and nearly 30 years of being in bands can't really ever be found on a stage, no matter how hard you look for it or try to will it into existence. "Love and rock are fickle things," Murphy sings on "Home," the sigh of a song that ends This Is Happening and maybe the entire LCD Soundsystem project along with it. "And you know it." Maybe not before. But we do now.


He can change, he can change, he can change, he can change.
Ruvan Wijesooriya
He can change, he can change, he can change, he can change.

LCD Soundsystem play Terminal 5 May 20–23

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