Thursday, March 29, 2007

North American Scum

My favorite kind of humor is often described as "intelligent lowbrow," a category into which Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, etc. are routinely grouped. The idea is that, even though the comedy may be based on the lowest common denominator (hint, hint), it takes more than a simpleton to get what's going on.

If there is a musical equivalent of intelligent lowbrow, it may just be LCD Soundsystem, the rowdy project of whizbang studio rat/DJ/soundman James Murphy. Theirs is a music that has all the indie cred and punk ethos of all your favorite bands, but just dares you not to put-your-hands-in-the-air-like-you-just-don't-care.

LCD Soundsystem's eponymous debut remains a staple at the Friday night dance parties at my house, and the band's new release, Sound of Silver, may just make the punk-funk LCD a household name. The best thing about the record may be that it is both one of the most interesting albums to come out this year and easily one of the most fun, booty-shakin' records you've ever heard.

James Murphy, who originally hails from the Garden State, may look like Lloyd Cole's disheveled kid brother and "sing" like a more coherent Mark E. Smith, but on "North American Scum," he instructs "those of you who still think we're from England" that "we're not, no." Meanwhile, the record's opener, "Get Innocuous!" comes off like a paean to Kraut rock, but you gotta love that live drum sound under all the icy keyboards. "Time To Get Away," on which Murphy's house party singing style is front and center, will have you reaching for your cowbell to play along faster than you can say Will Ferrell. And "North American Scum" may just be the anthem of the year, the perfect marriage of punk and funk. I really can't wait to hear that song played the next time we host the Olympics. Funny what it takes to stir a little nationalistic (er, continental?) pride these days. (wink)

While the song "All My Friends" probably has The Killers scratching their heads and wondering whether their sophomore record really took them in the right "direction," the song "Someone Great" is a real highlight of the set. With its cheesy 80s keyboards, its new wave melody, and Kraftwerk blips and bleeps, it's approximately one million times better than anything that could ever get played on mainstream radio today. Nonetheless, it would've been a staple on MTV and Ted Turner's Friday Night Videos about 25 years ago and sounds just as fresh today. Not everything on Sound of Silver may reach the heights of "North American Scum" and "Someone Great," but unlike most funky records, the whole of it makes for an incredible listen (and dance). It's easily one of my favorite records of the year so far.

MP3: LCD Soundsystem - "North American Scum" from Sound of Silver
YouTube: "North American Scum"

As an added bonus, I thought I'd slap the video on here for the classic "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" from LCD Soundsystem: