Big singles are dangerous things, aren’t they? Even when you’re dealing with people who, as a whole, don’t do singles. Often a big single can break an album by attracting those critical floating consumers (the most immediate reference in my collection being St Elsewhere by Gnarls Barkley. The single being ‘Crazy’ obviously); but just as often your big single can disappoint someone who’d have bought the album regardless (stand up Weekend In The City and ‘The Prayer’ by Bloc Party). I’d love to try and blame the explosion of MP3 for this, and the concurrent death of the album as a unified artwork, but that’s a different kettle of fish altogether.
Which brings me, not all that neatly, to LCD Soundsystem. Beloved of critics, their big single last time round was ‘Daft Punk is playing at my house’ (which wouldn’t have sold it to me, and wasn’t that big) which featured on their debut album. Which played like a compilation of big singles and big single remixes. The album didn’t feel like a full album, but instead one of the best early 00’s post-punk mix-tapes ever. It played with enough Talking Heads white funk; enough lite-Fall caustic wit; and enough disco-directed dancing to maintain focus while at the same time not feeling like it was the product of one recording session.
The big single from Sound of Silver is ‘North American Scum’ which adds a healthy dose of Suicide bombast to the mixture; wasn’t that big either, but definitely made me want this album. The second album certainly sounds like an album, which does unfortunately take something away from the Soundsystem. The thing about compilations (and I know there are enough chronic nerds out there to agree) is that you don’t have space for a weak track. What Sound of Silver suffers from is the new-found freedom to drop pace slightly and relax a little. Songs like ‘All My Friends’ call to mind the meditative Wayne Coyne/ Chemical Brothers collaboration ‘The Golden Path’, which is, for all it has interesting moments, not a patch on ‘Life Is Sweet’. It’s lovely for a sunny April day, but the real delights of the album are the spiky energetic and sarcastic moments like ‘North American Scum’ and ‘Watch The Tapes’. James Murphy’s hilariously venomous obsession with hipsters shows no sign of letting up just yet. Closer ‘New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down’ ends on a piano-led barroom elegy to the days when New York was the crime capital of the world, and the sanitised post-Guiliani Big Apple: “A tonne of the twist, but we’re fresh out of shout.”
Sound of Silver sounds like a proper album. And for all it’s a very good proper album, I’d have preferred a big collection of big singles.