Music

Searching For ‘All My Friends:’ LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Sound Of Silver’ Turns 10

I was in high school the first time I listened to LCD Soundsystem. It was 2011 and I was just starting to really get into music, which would quickly allow me to open my eyes and see that there were more opportunities for me than those that were dictated by my small, hyper masculine group of friends. I was starting to lose the Abercrombie long sleeve shirts and replacing them with band t-shirts and ripped jeans. I listened to LCD Soundsystem for the first time because I was trying to impress someone; not in a romantic way, but rather I was looking for a new crowd of friends I could relate to, given my waning interest in sports and ever-growing interest in punk rock.

I met a kid in my film class who instantly struck me as someone that I wanted to be friends with — a feeling that I don’t remember having before that moment, and haven’t had since. I felt the need to impress him, so I could get started on rebuilding my social structures. When our conversation turned to music, he told me he had somehow gotten tickets to see LCD Soundsystem’s last show ever at Madison Square Garden. I had read about the band’s latest album This Is Happening in Rolling Stone, but struggled to get into it at the time. Like I said, I was a punk purist. I wanted to play it cool with my new friend, so I acted like I revered him for going. I rushed home that night and googled “Best LCD Soundsystem album,” then threw on a crappy YouTube rip of This Is Happening. If he liked the band, then I was certainly wrong in thinking they weren’t worth my time. I tried and I tried, but I still didn’t really get it.

It would take me a few years to really get it. Three years after LCD Soundsystem’s “final show” in April 2011, I left New York — which I had called home for the last 18 years — and moved to Michigan to start college. The shift was jarring, and suddenly I was on my own. I used to shuffle my iPod Classic (the best MP3 player ever to hit the market) at night before I went to bed, and late one evening, “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” the closing track from LCD Soundsystem’s 2007 album Sound Of Silver, began to play. I usually skipped past many songs as I went through shuffle, but this time I stopped to take it all in lyrically and musically.

“New York you’re perfect, don’t please don’t change a thing,” James Murphy softly sang over light instrumentation. I felt the tears well up in my eyes as I realized how much I missed home, and the friends I left behind. I finally got it, and it hit me like a brick. “New York, I Love You” is a perfect closing summation of a nine-song coming-of-age record.

Murphy was 37 when Sound Of Silver was released, but he still managed to capture the anxieties of the immense life-shattering moments typically associated with the movement from a form of stunted adolescent reality into a fuller and conscious understanding of the way the world works. Sound Of Silver is not considered a concept album, but the overriding themes are hard to deny: It’s an incredibly poignant record about growing up, about loss, and about life. Once I had experienced that moment of transcending liminality into a cliché understanding of “adulthood,” I realized that this understanding is what was missing from my initial attempts to appreciate the record.

It seems like every longform piece I read about LCD Soundsystem is rooted in a deeply personal connection with the band, the music, and the culture that surrounds it all. When I saw that the band’s sophomore album Sound Of Silver was turning ten this year, I tried to think of whether there was a way to write about this album without putting through the lens of an individualized account of my relationship with it. But that’s part of what makes this band, and this album, so special — the tracks evoke specific memories in which they were heard for the first time, the moment you really got what James Murphy was trying to say, or when the euphoria of watching the band play “All My Friends” live washed over you as you danced along to what has been lauded as the best song of the millennium like you’ve never danced to anything before (in public, at least).

I saw LCD Soundsystem live for the first time in 2016 at the inaugural Panorama Festival in New York City, their first large-scale New York show after a few intimate warmup shows at Webster Hall a few months earlier. In the five years since the band “broke up,” I had experienced the full spectrum of overwhelming love, devastating loss, and affirmation of life. As LCD Soundsystem played “All My Friends” in front of tens of thousands, the performance felt like a culminating moment. “You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan, and the next five years trying to be with your friends again,” Murphy sang. Five years after I tried to make a new friend, I stood in a field with three of my new ones — some of the best friends I have ever had — with chills running up and down my spine as I realized that I had finally gotten what I wanted in the first place.

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