I bought the new LCD Soundsystem record yesterday as a premature birthday to self. I have had a voracious appetite for new music of late, but surprisingly I have passed over several follow-up efforts I previously would have been all over. Generally speaking, I have found sophomore (and junior, and senior) efforts to be a disappointment. Certainly, by the time most bands are putting together their third major release, they are a different band from when they first started. There are many examples of this, and it all happens at unique times for each of us with different bands.

Take the White Stripes, for example. From pretty much 2001 through 2003, it seemed to me they were the best thing in all of popular music. Now, it’s hard for me to imagine a world where I thought that. I still like the White Stripes in doses, sometimes love them in doses, but something about either my tastes or their output changed, and that was enough. It also may not have helped that the White Strips are a somewhat limited band, given their musical pallet.

The same thing happened to me with the Black Keys. Their second and third records are also limited sonically, but I still loved them. But somehow the fourth record, Magic Potion, seems 20% diminished, and that’s enough to make the Black Keys look like a band that’s meeting a commercial audience of modest size just as their artistic output has plateaued, or worse, peaked. Too bad for all the suckers who see them in five years. They’ll never know how hard they rocked in their prime.

Of course, for every 2nd Violent Femmes record there is an Odelay or Paul’s Boutique, a follow-up that truly broke the mold of what wrote the band’s commercial ticket. (And then a Check Your Head after that, even more rare air for the Beasties.) So you can’t just write a band off just because they keep putting out more major label releases. Most bands can’t sustain true, unique output for more than five years, if that, but there are the rare few that manage to be relevant for longer than that.

It is unclear where LCD Soundsystem fits in that narrative now that they have released their 2nd record. Their first one is, quite simply, a masterpiece. That’s a hard thing to live up to, and in some ways James Murphy doesn’t even try. It’s a relatively scant 55 minutes long, and generally treads the same ground that the previous release did on the first record. Which is to say, it’s nothing new, but it’s still pretty damn good.

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6 Responses to LCD

  1. Jim says:

    In an utterly bizarre coincidence, I also ordered that LCD Soundystem record on Wednesday. But I haven’t downloaded it yet–it’s still waiting for my periodic high-speed access, which will be Monday. I’ll weigh in when I’ve listened.

    I will say this, though–the second Arcade Fire album is excellent, and the Shins’ third album is my favorite of all of their work–and that is saying something.

  2. Jim says:

    Also, must add that while I agree with you on the White Stripes, I think the Raconteurs (Jack White spinoff group, if I’m not belaboring the obvious) album is pretty solid, and the single–Steady As She Goes–is almost obnoxiously catchy.

    But to weigh in further, I think your point about second albums is often true–I think Interpol and Franz Ferdinand are a couple of recent groups whose follow-up is distinctly inferior.

    By the way, I recommend you check out a band called Wolf Parade. Pretty confident you’ll dig that.

  3. pipelineblog says:

    I’ve resisted the Shins record, on the basis of seeing them live on a couple of shows and hearing some bad reviews. Not sure why that would change my opinion of their recorded work, but when I feel like I have choices to make and only so many resources to use, I’ll let someone else blaze that trail and tell me if it’s for real or not.

    The Raconteurs should succeed; they have Jack White, but other talent as well, and their sound is fuller and more diverse than the WS.

    Sometimes bands have a distinctive sound and a period of great creativity that covers perhaps 2 or 3 years, perhaps 20 or 30 songs. Then that gets exhausted and they have to find new material. Bands that keep it rolling for longer than that are rare and to be celebrated.

    But, I don’t want to diminish bands that don’t have that staying power, either. A huge chunk of my favorite music in the world comes from a specific band, playing music they created and played in a short window of time. That they never reached that level again, before or after, doesn’t diminish the fact, just to name one example, that for a couple weeks in 1988 Fishbone made Truth and Soul and they were Perfect.

    I do like Wolf Parade, but don’t have it. Pandora has played them for me. Maybe I’ll do a Wolf Parade/Wolfmother/Peter Wolf mashup.

  4. notchris says:

    That would be quite a mash-up!

  5. Jim says:

    I’d like to vouch loudly for the Shins record, but you can also copy it from me this summer, as I’ll have my laptop with me. Same with WP and the Raconteurs.

    Fishbone also kicked ass on SNL, as I’m sure you recall as vividly as I do.

    You could also include the soundtrack from Teen Wolf, as well as the Black Sheep album “A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing”. And don’t forget Hungry Like the Wolf and Howlin’ Wolf. And Steppenwolf.

  6. Brien says:

    Fishbone kicked ass live. Kicked. Fucking. Ass.

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