Published Feb 08, 2019A live-in-the-studio album in 2019 seems like just another drip from the firehose of live content the internet has to offer. Got a favourite band? Chances are there's live footage of them on YouTube. Or they did one of NPR's "Tiny Desk" concerts, or filmed something for La Blogotheque or did a Spotify Session… the list goes on.
So excuse me if I roll my eyes at this, the latest live recording from LCD Soundsystem. Sure, I love the band, but didn't they already do this on The London Sessions? Heck, a couple of those songs from that are here again. But, as LCD frontman James Murphy says himself on "You Wanted a Hit" — one of three tracks from the band's original run included here — "nothing's ever tough enough until you hit the road."
Their Electric Lady session, recorded last year, captures the group while promoting 2017's American Dream with a big stadium tour. Heavier and with more grooves, no doubt thanks to road-sharpened skills, the resulting Electric Lady Sessions improves on its predecessor, a dry and somewhat lifeless recording in comparison. It also makes a bid for its place as the most powerful document of LCD Soundsystem as a live unit.
Half of its 12 tracks are pulled from American Dream, and in almost every case, frontman James Murphy's bandmates find new pockets to dig into, producing weightier performances than their studio counterparts. Both "You Wanted A Hit" and "Get Innocuous" similarly best the versions recorded for The London Sessions. Murphy, a notorious sound tweaker during performances, lets the instruments bleed into one another in the best way possible. Few would describe LCD recordings as slick, but Murphy lets songs build and morph into extended jams, the resulting cacophony of sounds capturing the energy of the room.
The record is rounded out by a trio of covers, each of them almost comically on brand for the band: clear influences from the late '70s and early '80s that are obscure enough to bring new listeners to lesser known tracks, but familiar enough to keep the keen eared record nerds feeling smug. Yet they make each their own. "Seconds" by Human League and Heaven 17's "(We Don't Need this) Fascist Groove Thing" bookend the recording while Chic's "I Want Your Love," probably the best of the three, comes in about two-thirds of the way through (keyboardist and singer Nancy Whang takes lead on the latter two). Casual listeners probably won't even notice they're not originals.
That should be enough to convince even the most jaded, but Electric Lady Sessions perhaps best functions as the defining calling card of a post-reunion LCD Soundsystem. It's telling that the band have now released two studio sessions as live albums, clearly showing a preference for the Peel Session style over, say, Live at Budokan or Alive! They have adoring fans, something their farewell show at Madison Square Garden made plainly clear. But at their heart they're meticulous players, concerned more with tone and gear than creaming throngs. A lot of people were pissed off when the band came out of retirement back in 2016. Yet any band that can get down this hard even when playing just for themselves shouldn't need any excuse to be playing together. (DFA/Columbia)