Released April 19, 2014
3 hrs, 8 min
On April 2, 2011, LCD Soundsystem played its final show at Madison Square Garden. Nearly five years later, on January 4, they rose again.
Many, many bands have broken up, only to reunite in some manner or another further up the road. Sometimes, the breakup is a hiatus that was always meant to end. Sometimes, the band members just can’t fucking handle each other any more, and find out later on that they can do it if they try. Sometimes a band calls it quits, makes a big deal of it, and then decides that the breakup didn’t need to be so final after all.
LCD Soundsystem broke up for reasons mostly unknown to the public. Perhaps James Murphy didn’t even really know what he was doing when he announced the Garden show as the last one. The band played with urgency and fervor, looking like they could keep going for another decade by the end of it. It was a puzzling conclusion without much in the way of explanation, even with the superb documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits and the long James Murphy interview interspersed throughout it in 2012. Even burnout couldn’t really explain it – there are scenes in that documentary where Murphy is clearly distraught at the decision he’s made, and it makes one wonder what the motivation really was in the end.
I’ve got thoughts about that, and about the upcoming reunion at Coachella and beyond. But first, the album.
The Long Goodbye is the audio document of that final show, providing an easier way than Shut Up and Play the Hits to digest the best performance of the band’s history. At three hours and eight minutes, the album contains nearly every moment from the live show, cutting out only the short breaks and visual intermissions that wouldn’t translate to the audio product, creating a gorgeous document of the show that nicely compliments the video in Shut Up. All of the hits are here – iconic tracks like “Dance Yrself Clean” to open the show, “Drunk Girls” right after, “All My Friends” early on, a set of classic singles (“Tribulations,” “Yeah,” “Losing My Edge”) towards the end, and, of course, the beautiful closer “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down.” But there’s also the deep cuts – “Bye Bye Bayou,” “You Wanted a Hit,” and “45:33” in its miraculous entirety (with part three substituted for “Sound of Silver” – part three shows up much later as its ‘final form’ in “Someone Great”).
All throughout, one gets the feeling that this band is having the time of their lives, and they’re still somehow in the prime of their career, ten years on. The men’s and women’s choruses provide a great wrinkle to many of the songs, “Dance Yrself Clean” and “45:33” in particular, and especially the transcendent, powerful group vocals throughout “Home” towards the end of the show. The band pulled out all the stops with the visual and sonic aspects of the show, to the point where the four shows at Terminal 5 before Madison Square Garden ended up being trial runs for this show, nearly identical to the final product. And what a final product it ended up being – three hours – four on video – 28 songs, and a night no one that was there will ever forget.
When it was all said and done, everyone was crying. The crowd, the band, the crew, everyone in the venue understood the magnitude of what the show meant. That was it. No more. Goodbye forever.
James Murphy posted a blog entry today about the reunion and what it meant to him. He explained his reasoning – the music never stopped flowing, and it was a question of releasing it, with LCD, as LCD, or releasing it, with LCD, as Not LCD, or releasing it as himself like a pretentious fuck. Or not release anything. Of course, he chose to call it what it was, and that meant bringing back a band that hadn’t done anything in four years, after explicitly putting said band in the ground in extravagant fashion. Most people were obviously thrilled – who would deny wanting new LCD Soundsystem if they’re a fan? – but a section of those fans were disappointed that the last show was no longer the last show, that all of the pomp and circumstance had gone to waste, so to speak. And that’s an interesting proposal, I think. It’s a bad proposal, but it’s interesting.
Like I said at the start, bands break up and get back together for a litany of reasons, and those reasons aren’t always noble, or a good idea. At the Drive-In broke up because the members hated each other by the end of it, and they reunited in 2012 for a set of festival shows (and they’ll do it again in 2016, which is another bad idea). They reunited for one reason – well, millions of reasons, probably. Money. Money is what I’m getting at.
Omar Rodríguez-López said something along those lines once their run of shows was over, indicating that he didn’t have much of a connection to their music any more. If he didn’t feel connected to it – and we’re talking about a bunch of really, really pretentious dudes here – then why would you go back and stir up a storm of bullshit stemming from the fact that the reunions shows were entirely underwhelming? Money, that’s why. Festivals in particular pay out the ass to get bands that have broken up, because that’s an instant promotional win there. “THIS BAND IS BACK AND YOU CAN ONLY SEE THEM AT COACHELLA! SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS PLEASE!” After all, no one goes to Coachella to see Diggy the One-Armed DJ playing right next to the Port-o-Potty for twenty minutes – they go to see the big names and get high, and if they tell you otherwise, they’re lying.
Again, as I said, reunions aren’t always bad ideas done for bad reasons. Pink Floyd performed a single show, eleven years after their final tour, and 24 years after Roger Waters’s acrimonious departure, and it was a wonderful moment for a noble enough cause. Nine Inch Nails played what was ostensibly their “final” show in 2009, though there wasn’t much of a consensus on how serious Trent Reznor was about that – and, sure enough, after four years of interesting side-projects, Nine Inch Nails reunited for a set of fantastic tours through 2013 and 2014, the 2013 Tension tour in particular being almost universally acclaimed. After unceremoniously dismissing the E Street Band in 1989, Bruce Springsteen brought them back together a decade later and kicked off seventeen years of universally acclaimed, legendary tours all across the world. Plenty of bands and artists have come around for a second act that ended up being an extension of their career and history, rather than a victory lap.
So what about the band that says it’s done, only to come back a few years later?
As I mentioned above, there’s a section of fans that are disappointed that the end is no longer the end for LCD Soundsystem. There are people that were at that last show – people that spent ludicrous amounts of time and money to be there, to be part of the experience, for whatever personal reasons they may have had. They were there for the end, and they wanted it to be the end. They wanted it to keep the same emotional impact and meaning that it had in 2011. If you make a sequel, what does that make the original? Does it matter that Rocky lost in the end if he won in the next movie?
For his part, Murphy understood and empathized with those fans. He’s always been a humble man, not fond of the spotlight and celebrity, and his desire to make music and enjoy himself and the friends he’s made with LCD is the clear motivator for this reunion – Coachella’s just a tool for announcing it, not a cash grab. “Allow me to re-introduce myself.” Kingdom Come.
My stance is that if you think that this cheapens the Garden show and the original breakup, then that’s your business. If you think the moment you had in 2011 at that show is tainted, tarnished, or gone, that’s your opinion, and that’s fine. But it’s petty and selfish. A person has the right to make what they want of another person’s art – their opinion of it is theirs, their interpretation is theirs, their feelings are theirs. But a person’s art is their livelihood, and it chiefly belongs to them. You can be mad about Heroes returning, but if Tim Kring had more to say, then he can say it, and fuck you if you try to tell him, right to his face, that he’s wronged you for doing what he wants with his art. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that LCD is James Murphy’s entire life, because it obviously isn’t – he didn’t form this band as a kid, and a decade isn’t such a long time in the grand scheme of a person’s life. But for those ten years, I think it was his life, at least for some of it. And he was clearly distraught and upset when he put it down in 2011. So if he wants to bring it back, if he wants to “cheapen” the Garden show by putting another one on after that, and another, and another, that’s fine for you. But don’t bring that to him and act like you’ve been personally wronged. Because I guarantee – I guarantee – that as much as LCD might be your life, no one in the world loves this band more than James Murphy. No one.
It remains to be seen where LCD Soundsystem lands. They’ve already promised a studio album, which was the onus for a reunion in the first place, in their case. Coachella will be nothing more than a re-introduction, unpausing the movie and getting back to business. They could be Soundgarden or Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots or A Perfect Circle. The second act could be bigger and better than the first, or it could be shit.
Either way, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.