James Murphy is back with more pensive lyrics and pulsing dance beats. If you’re in certain social circles owning this album on first print vinyl is a must (but you’ve probably already preordered it haven’t you?), but I’d like to try and convince anyone who refuses to jump on the blog bandwagon why This Is Happening is one of the most interesting albums to come out this year.
Once the album’s first track “Dance Yrself Clean” hits minute marker 3:09 the album kicks into gear. Murphy once again looks to the past to salvage the good hooks from disco, the guitars from 70’s rock, the synths from New Wave and any other genre tics worth listening to create a dance amalgamation of hipness. Every song tries something different, and most of the time this experimentation is successful. The album’s first (and likely only) single “Drunk Girls” blazes through a hopping sing-a-long with crunchy distortion; the next track “One Touch” pulls a complete 360 and makes a groove out of textured synths and samples; after that “All I Want” channels some Krautrock moodiness and adds a chugging drumbeat to boot. I could continue, but that would be boring—I don’t want to be boring because that would be the opposite of This Is Happening.
Murphy got a lot of phrase for his lyrics in the past but he may have managed to top himself. This Is Happening articulates the problems, joys, and lifestyle of an upper-middle to upper-class cosmopolitan. He sings about relationships gone awry on “All I Want” and relationships growing apart in “I Can Change” (the song I’m deeming This Is Happening’s “All My Friends”). It seems like Murphy went more for lyric writing he worked with on “Someone Great” and “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” on LCD’s last record, Sound of Silver. The craft Murphy puts into his words is no less than that which he puts in his music. He might not be dealing with global issues but being sad in relationships, existential angst, and going out dancing are all things white people love—just like they love LCD Soundsystem.
The album is not without artist indulgence. I don’t know what that noise (sounds like a saxophone) is in the background of “Somebody’s Calling Me” but it’s not something to be proud of, and “Pow Pow” doesn’t seem to fill an appropriate amount of time it actually takes up. But don’t let any of my qualms stop you from listening to a very solid album. My favorite track is the album’s last. “And this is what you waited for” Murphy sings on “Home”–well, the wait was worth it.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G-½
Key Tracks: “Home”, “Dance Yrself Clean”, “I Can Change”
Recommended if you like: Hot Chip, The Rapture, and Yeasayer.
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!