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LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Long Goodbye’

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014

LCD_WebSteph Wulz | The Observer

I arrived at Stinkweeds, my favorite record store in my hometown of Phoenix, Ariz., bright and early for Record Store Day, April 19. Despite all the exclusive releases, I had my eye on only one record: “The Long Goodbye,” LCD Soundsystem’s 5xLP box set of their final show. LCD Soundsystem were one of the formative bands of my teen years; frontman James Murphy’s introspective, vulnerable songs remain some of my favorites of the young millennium. While their debut single “Losing My Edge” was released before I was even old enough to have any kind of edge, by the release of their final album in 2010, the group had cemented itself as a mainstay in my record collection.

“The Long Goodbye” is an appropriately-titled release, coming three years after the group’s final show at Madison Square Garden on April 2, 2011. The record follows “Shut Up and Play the Hits,” the 2012 documentary which chronicled the 48 hours surrounding the farewell gig. “In my mind I thought we’d play the last show, a month of editing [the documentary], cleaning up the audio and then I’m off!” Murphy explained in an interview with Q. “It turned out to be a year of editing, then doing the concert and mixing that, and then having to do a different vinyl mix because I didn’t think it worked for a record.”

The 28-song, 3.5-hour show spanned most of the band’s discography and “The Long Goodbye” reproduces it in a gorgeous mix done by Murphy himself. While the records are largely the product of Murphy’s calculated vision, as a live act LCD Soundsystem were surprisingly electric. The dim hum of the crowd courses throughout the songs, managing to replicate the exhilaration of that show for fans who weren’t there.

“You Can’t Hide (Shame on You)” is the best example of how these songs come to life, with Reggie Watts’ soulful vocals elevating the disco pastiche into something transcendent. The anthemic “All My Friends” is another standout, somehow managing to sound even better than on record. By the time Murphy screams, “If I could see all my friends tonight!” at the song’s climax, it’s hard not to be transported to that final show.

This box set is certainly not for casual fans, with 187 minutes of audio spread across 10 sides of vinyl. Still, it is an apt example of how the group seamlessly blended genres, with electronic music, punk and indie rock all co-existing here.

The gig ends with the gorgeous “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” The band begins with the similarly haunting “Twin Peaks” theme as Murphy says goodbye, before seguing into his lament on life in New York City. Murphy revels in this finale, which he draws out by pausing an “interminable amount” between keyboard player Nancy Whang’s piano chords.

Murphy discussed the experience of leaving behind a band at its peak in Rolling Stone last year: “Like, these are my best friends, and people liked our band, and we got to be uncompromising. It’s incredible.” Luckily for LCD Soundsystem fans, “The Long Goodbye” serves as a document of that uncompromising, dearly-missed band going out with a drawn-out bang.

“The Long Goodbye” will be released digitally on May 19.

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Matthew thinks everyone should listen to Charly Bliss.

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