James Murphy is a dance-orientated Randy Newman. Though their sounds are generations apart, Newman’s “Political Science” and “North American Scum” share a spiritual common ground and the sentiment that America is funny in a sort of sad and scary way.
The difference is that Newman is setting his sights mostly on the government, but Murphy is looking squarely at you. “I hate the feeling when you’re looking at me that way / Cuz we’re North Americans / But if we act all shy it’ll make it OK – makes it go away.” Murphy’s wry socio-cultural isn’t as concerned with the international power of our government; it is instead concerned with the complete lack of international comparison in terms of culture. North American scum are blasé and banal. Here, you “can be in any one of a million new bands!” This criticism also shows Murphy’s self-awareness regarding his own meteoric rise to indie stardom from the New York City rank-and-file (NYC being one of the only North American places given a good review by Murphy).
Surprisingly, considering that LCD Soundsystem has subsisted on a half joke / half tribute song about Daft Punk since their past release, the Randy Newman as dance auteur holds water in terms of lyrics. “Us v. Them” contains the same gloomy – yet witty – narrator that Newman delivered in songs like “It’s Lonely at the Top.” “Cloud, block out the sun over me – over me / And spoil, spoil all the fun, won’t you please? / If you please, please anyone, talk to me, talk to me / All you boys, lonely and drunk, on your knees / Us and them all over again.” Come to think of it, that has a bit of “Mama Told Me Not to Come” in it as well. I believe the title alone of “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down” – let alone the lyrics – makes this argument for me.
Obviously, musical common ground between Newman and Murphy is a bit harder to find. One prefers the role of piano man, the other of dance commander. They’ve both used their talents to unusual ends in the past – Newman scored Toy Story, Murphy remixed Britney Spears – but Murphy has always been an ass-shaker, while Newman has had his ass firmly planted on a piano bench for so long, it’s hard to imagine him without it (let alone dancing). Musically, Murphy is to being a white version of Prince – if you don’t believe me, listen to “Time to Get Away.” The way his voice flies off the handle into a falsetto on “time,” the way he groans “dying,” and the way he calls back to an imaginary Revolution “if you know what I mean” makes the song feel like an alternate reality flashback to Purple Rain. Though I don’t know if Murphy has purified himself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. More like the Hudson River, I would imagine.
All of this is really beating around the bush. The bottom line is that Sound of Silver is a fantastic album, and no one can do modern dance music quite like LCD Soundsystem. Regardless of whether James Murphy is Randy Newman, white Prince, or a combination of both (Prince Newman), he has a capable hand at making intelligent and witty dance music. The man has a promising career in front of him.