I’m Still Waiting to Get Something Great From the LCD Soundsystem Reunion
I didn’t have any sore feelings when LCD Soundsystem announced their reformation at the beginning of 2016. Sure, they’d broken up with the pomp and circumstance of a state funeral, but feelings can change over five years. Money helps, too, and if James Murphy and his friends were getting six-and-seven-figure offers to play festivals and enjoy each other’s company, it was their prerogative to sign the line.
More than a year into the reunion, the reunion seems to be going… okay. The crowds they pulled at festivals sometimes looked small; their new album kept getting pushed back before its September 1 release was announced; their return singles were fine, but not exceptional, and didn’t garner much buzz after their release. In the end, the layover between albums will be seven years—long, but not appreciably longer than Broken Social Scene (seven years), Fleet Foxes (six years), or Bon Iver (five years), all of them superstars of the indie world who disappeared for a bit without going so far as to release a Chuck Klosterman-narrated documentary about their dissolution.
Still, anyone who doubted their popularity would’ve shut up on the first day of Pitchfork Music Festival, where LCD headlined before a crowd as full as the festival ever pulls. (The festival holds about 20,000 people; a sizable portion of that seemed present.) LCD are one of the more well-regarded bands in Pitchfork’s history; all of their records received overwhelmingly positive reviews, and their breakup spawned a track-by-track reflection of their entire discography, an honor no other band has received. They previously headlined the festival in 2010, and their return felt like a type of homecoming—I’d say that no other festival crowd in the world would be ready to lavish as much love on them as the aging scenesters, earnest twee kids, and online-media-interested fans in attendance at Chicago’s Union Park.
They played almost all the hits, like “Someone Great” and “I Can Change.” The crowd was pleasantly engaged for the most part, and was moved to occasional ecstasy—the beat dropping on “Dance Yrself Clean” inspired erratic dancing from anyone within 100 feet of the stage. There were some small ironies to the setlist: Daft Punk has released a record more recently than 2010’s This Is Happening, which makes “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” sound particularly quaint, and it should be illegal to play “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” in Chicago, a city that does not enjoy when people talk about how great New York is. They also sounded a little slow, especially when Murphy insisted on singing set closer “All My Friends” as in a mournful croon so far off the beat that plenty of people probably gave up on singing along. But the set was definitely fun, if you enjoy their music.
It did feel somewhat like the band was in a holding pattern. They played a set nearly identical to those on their current tour—something they always did, dating back to their pre-breakup days, but which feels just a little stale as most of their setlist is now derived from songs more than a decade old. (Anyone wanting to skip out to use the bathroom or get a drink could’ve timed their exit for the moment “American Dream” came on.) There were no new songs outside of the comeback singles. Murphy’s banter was engaged, but exhausted; at one point he kept asking if the crowd was doing okay, in the tone of a man still brutally depressed about the election. They looked and sounded like a nostalgia band, playing the old cues to spark the old emotions.
Being a nostalgia band is a perfectly fine thing; at some point, everybody just wants to drink a few beers, and listen to the music they used to like. When the band returned, though, Murphy wrote a note in which he explained, “This isn’t a victory lap or anything, which wouldn’t be of much interest to us.” The show was exactly that. Until we hear more of what was apparently worth detonating their own picture-perfect ending, it’ll still feel like they’re moving on cruise control.