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.