As LCD Soundsystem release their fourth studio album American Dream, fans owe more than a little gratitude to David Bowie. Indeed, James Murphy has been quick to give the late rock icon credit for encouraging him to reactivate the band six years after their 2010 Madison Square Garden swansong, an action-packed evening that was documented both in the Shut Up and Play the Hits documentary and the live album The Long Goodbye. Murphy had gotten close to Bowie during the singer’s last years and even collaborated with him musically, doing a sterling remix of “Love Is Lost” from The Next Day and performing percussion on two songs on Blackstar. Unsurprisingly, LCD Soundsystem’s performance of “Heroes”—one of Murphy’s favorite songs from long before he had his own coffee brand—was the most poignant moment at their Coachella reboot in 2016.
That deep connection between sadly missed master and studious acolyte may explain why American Dream—an alternately moody, anthemic, inspirational, cranky, and expansive masterwork if there ever was one—sounds like it could’ve fit into Bowie’s own back catalog. If you’re looking for a precise location, it’d be between Low and Lodger, the point in Bowie’s Berlin tenure when he shifted from Krautrock- and Kraftwerk-influenced experimentalism into a harder rock and dance sensibility. Yet the most Bowie-esque element of the new album is its adventurous spirit, something that’s continually been part of the LCD Soundsystem aesthetic as Murphy refined and extended the hallmarks first heard in the dance-punk moment of early-‘00s New York.
Of course, a whole lot has changed since then, and American Dream reflects the shifts that have gone on not just in Murphy’s life and career, but those of his bandmates, too. Many of the album’s most exciting moments point to the influence of the other musical activities of the LCD membership, whether it’s the brooding electro-pop of drummer Pat Mahoney’s band Museum of Love, the continuing dancefloor adventures of Nancy Whang and John MacLean in The Juan MacLean, the edgy post-DFA tech-funk of artists on Tyler Pope’s Interference Pattern label, or the sprightly synth-pop Al Doyle makes with Hot Chip. Likewise, there are traces of the music that fills Murphy’s DJ sets on his own or with Soulwax as Despacio (e.g., Telex, Suicide, The Cars) or his scores for the films of his pal Noah Baumbach, along with hints of his other recent musical obsessions like The Roches, the art-pop sister act revered for their intricate and intertwined vocal harmonies.
So all of this belongs alongside Murphy’s cherished Bowie/Eno-isms in our exploded view of American Dream, a work whose creative vision and generosity are as wide as such a title demands.