Getty | Getty LCD Soundsystem founder James Murphy won't be inside an…
- Posted on Apr 3rd 2011 1:45PM by Jonathan Dekel
Brigitte Engl, Redferns
Leave it to Murphy to defy the musical career ark paradigm. As the 41-year-old faded -- presumably for the last time -- into the bowels of Madison Square Garden amid a sea of white balloons and effectively ending his band's live career, he walked away from the spotlight without burning out nor fading away. Instead, the man that has come to define biting, ironic detachment simply chose to flash freeze his life and, in what may be a shrewd business move, left to take a front seat at his own funeral and let his peers write a euphoric post-mortem.
Indeed, perhaps it's a cliché to evoke Neil Young in such cases, or even compare such an event to, say, the Band's Last Waltz, but Murphy has proved throughout his eight years in electro post-punk office that you need to simultaneously embrace both the known and the rare in order to attain musical and communal enlightenment.
Similarly, it's equally as tempting to note Murphy's entrance into the club he so wittily skewered on LCD's first single, 'Losing My Edge.' As the singer, producer, DJ, label boss and scene and city figure head stood atop the mountain looking down upon the culmination of an era in New York's musical history, at its city's biggest venue, he -- and by extension we (those on hand and those watching on the streaming live-feed) -- were "there." It was in that moment -- and it should be noted "that" moment was different for nearly anyone watching and participating -- that LCD Soundsystem truly transcended its detachment and embraced its role in the musical lexicon of its forebearers.
Interestingly, Murphy chose to eschew the brash heroics of other career caps. Sure, he played the hits and got the entirety of the black and white sporting masses to shimmy and sway to krautrock (bless him), but he also slyly snuck a Alan Vega cover in (played "for the first and last time") just to keep things fresh.
Yes, his pals and former touring mates Arcade Fire appeared to help out on the tongue-in-cheek 'North American Scum' but he relegated them to simple background vocals, essentially robbing the Grammy award-winning Canadians of their sharpest tools. By doing so, he robbed the evening of the cheesy emotional resonance that many had hoped they would find but, if they had been following the band at all, should have known they wouldn't get. Sure, it got emotional and some even shed tears but not Murphy. Instead, the rather clinical approach to the event focused the evening's spotlight on the music not the theatrics. Essentially hammering home the next phase of his career: financially sound production.
This created a rather interesting dynamic between band and audience (or, to be more exact, Murphy and the city of New York). For all his juxtapositions, for the past half a decade the New York music scene has turned to Murphy and his musical cohorts to showcase them as the forward thinking scenesters they believe they are and this night (and the night before it) was meant to be the sweet cap on a glorious decade of resurgence essentially started by the Strokes and passed on to Murphy and company. But, just as the night's closer and emotional climax 'New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down' claims, in order to justify caring you need to be able to accept the disappointment of heartbreak.
So, as fans desperately clung onto balloons and Murphy retreated to his final afterparty, the city he so eloquently represented was left with a bittersweet question: If LCD is dead and the Strokes are passé, who is left to deftly define the most iconic city in rock and roll?