After an eponymous debut in 2005 found LCD reveling in punky, almost snotty dance tracks, 2007's Sound of Silver witnessed a development that might have been hard to foresee. Its kinetic rhythms and steady lathered grooves were flushed out with wider-eyed arrangements; Murphy's songs turned inward, seeking out uneven terrains in relationships, life on the road and, well, heathen Americans. And of course, he penned two of the decade's most ubiquitous crossover tracks, "All My Friends" and "Someone Great."
Now, three years later—amid statements from Murphy that this will be the last LCD Soundsystem album—there's that much more glare astage for their third, This is Happening. If so, it's a storybook close for the band. This is Happening is a warm, sure-handed celebration of the last 30+ years of pop and dance music, drawing from touchstones in new wave, post-punk, disco, house and glam. "Nobody's Calling Me" nicks the beat and cold heroin pace of Iggy's "Nightclubbing," turning the song's inert waltz into an ode to disconnection. The daybreak epic "All I Want"—sure to go down near the top of the Murphy catalogue if he never records another note—lifts Robert Fripp's aerial guitar line from "Heroes," with Murphy again negotiating the unspoken pushes and pulls between those who are more than friends.
With its eerie, almost spastic synth melody "I Can Change"—a peek at the choice between staunch independence and growth within a relationship—reminds of Pleasure Principle-era Gary Numan. Elsewhere, standout and ascendant closer "Home" drains the paranoia from Remain in Light's jittery afro-funk, while "Drunk Girls" resembles the sloppy, chaotic scuzz-rock of White Light/White Heat.
This is Happening doesn't succeed as mere gold nugget pastiche though. Murphy embeds these references into the kind of physical trap-jams on which he and the DFA brand have always thrived. Listen to the vulcanized bass on "Pow Pow." Dipping into his deadest delivery, he even alludes to label-mate the Juan Maclean on the android electro of "One Touch," with its Nancy Whang vocal fills.
But it's perhaps on opener "Dance Yrself Clean" where Murphy offers the clearest balance between the intimate and the cathartic that LCD Soundsystem has been tracing since Sound of Silver. The intro is candlelight: dim hand drums and spacious synths, with Murphy sounding like a boy mumbling to himself behind his bedroom door. But it bursts into a squelchy electro anthem built on awkward parts in odd synthesis—warbling stabs of synth, a funky ESG beat and Murphy in near-squeal. Fittingly, he sings, in deference to both his first single and the proposed end of LCD Soundsystem, "Everybody's getting younger / It's the end of an era it's true." Well, let me voice what we're all thinking. If this is LCD Soundsystem's final outing, it better not be Murphy's.