LCD Soundsystem

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LCD Soundsystem

Rock group

In 2002, LCD Soundsystem released a song that helped change the face of electronic rock music. James Murphy, the man behind LCD, threw the disco-electronic-rock track "Losing My Edge" out on his own label DFA, for all to covet. His was a fresh sound that mix matched synthesizers and programmed beats with an equal amount of real instrumentation. With the full-length album LCD Soundsystem in 2005, Murphy proved that you could make "electronic" music with instruments (not just machines). While he tours with a live band, on his albums Murphy plays nearly every instrument and makes every single beat on his infamous alternative-music albums. "The LCD sound melded the synthetic rhythms of disco with rock's cocksure vocals and loud guitars," wrote journalist Andy Battaglia in New York Magazine. "The lyrics were pointed and off the cuff in the classic punk style. Murphy loved to rant against snobbery in all its incarnations." An aging hipster no less, Murphy has built a reputation for putting out an endless series of fantastic singles and two full-length albums under the LCD name. Murphy, along with his label and production partner Tim Goldsworthy, is always in demand to do remixes for bands from Les Savy Fav to the Rapture and Justin Timberlake. Murphy even had a failed writing session with Britney Spears. "No single musician has had the pan-cultural impact of Mr. Murphy in the past six years," declared URB Magazine writer Joshua Glazer, who named Murphy as Artist of the Decade in early 2008. Murphy may have lost a Grammy, but thousands of fanatical and dedicated fans keep the LCD train going and with his DJ, remixing and producing work, Murphy is one of the busiest men in contemporary music; even if his name doesn't ring familiar.

Born in New Jersey, Murphy began his music career playing in a handful of punk bands before moving to New York in 1988. In the 1990s, he played in rock bands including Brooklyn's Speedking. Murphy eventually settled in Brooklyn, and remembers the first handful of records he bought when he was younger: a David Bowie 7 inch of "Fame," and albums by the Fall, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Birthday Party. After endless tours with rock bands that were going nowhere, Murphy began to focus on producing and engineering other bands in his own studio. He found solace in working for a loud and artsy band called Dungbeetle. The band never had any sort of success, but they allowed Murphy to work as a sound engineer and immerse himself into newer and louder sounds. "James was the person turning up the volume on it all, literally and figuratively," DFA artist Juan Maclean told Battaglia. "He was the guy who was like, ‘Oh, you're confused by this? This rubs you the wrong way? Well here it is 100 times louder.’"

In 1999, British producer/programmer Tim Goldsworthy, who came from the trip-hop and rave scene in London, moved to New York to work on an album. Murphy was chosen as the engineer for the record, even though he wasn't familiar with Goldsworthy (or much of a fan of dance music in general). Murphy began to connect the dots quickly between what he liked about Dungbeetle and what Goldsworthy brought across the pond. By 2000, New York was becoming the "it" place for popular indie rock bands who were all testing out old sounds like garage rock. To combat that scene, Goldsworthy and Murphy started throwing parties where they would DJ all night long. "I played Donna Summer, Kraftwerk, Public Image Ltd., the Beatles, the Stooges—anything. It really felt like something was happening," Murphy proclaimed to Battaglia. The mix of sounds Murphy played at his party began to influence the kind of music he wanted to create on his own. "All of Murphy's work draws on an idea… that rock and disco could be reacquainted and could make a city move," wrote Battaglia.

Goldsworthy and Murphy created the production team and record label DFA (it stands for Death From Above). Goldsworthy had a heavy hand in introducing Murphy to underground disco and contemporary electronica and the DJ culture. DFA suddenly became sought after for remixing both popular and famous artists as well as lesser-known bands. "I love dance music," Murphy declared to Daily News writer Fred Shuster in 2007. "New York disco from the '70s and early '80s was not this refined, overproduced sound. Look at Chic. Chic was a tough, top-notch rhythm band. They were fantastic. As far as I'm concerned, early New York disco was raw, like punk rock." Hence, come 2002, Murphy began making music under the moniker LCD Soundsystem. DFA released the now infamous LCD track "Losing My Edge" to adoring critics and music fans, many of whom often stood on a fine line between embracing either electronic/dance music or rock 'n' roll, never both.

Before he knew it, Murphy had handfuls of songs and ideas for an LCD album, but was so busy working for other bands it took a while before he could get to it. "It took three weeks to do the record when I finally found the time," Murphy admitted to Alex Mar of Rolling Stone. An amazing feat, considering Murphy made the album almost completely by himself, playing almost every instrument. In the first month of 2005, DFA teamed up with major label Capitol/EMI to release the two-CD album LCD Soundsystem. The record boomed with the popular, catchy, and ironic track "Daft Punk is Playing at My House." The album was cowbell-laced disco-rock with Murphy's tongue-in-cheek hipster trademark attitude. It also showcased LCD's musical style of using repetitiveness as a rhythm. The kind of music that DFA was releasing, including the LCD sound, was breaking new ground-there wasn't a genre to describe it. That was fine by Murphy; he didn't want to be categorized. "You don't have to be something that fits into some inane micro-category at a record store," Murphy explained to Mar. "That's just another way for a bunch of cool kids to exclude people."

The eponymous album sold 235,000 copies worldwide. Where Murphy really began making money was with the remixes for major label artists like Nine Inch Nails, Justin Timberlake, and the Chemical Brothers. To support the LCD album, Murphy got a band together to tour. The group included drummer Pat Mahoney, keyboardist/vocalist Nancy Whang, bassist Tyler Pope, and guitarist Phil Mossman. "LCD is about being a live band. We have weird rules like whatever comes out of a sampler has to have an ‘inorganic’ sound. We actually bring a piano on tour. And our synth parts aren't done by a sampler either," Murphy explained to Shuster. In 2006, although LCD was a band teetering on a largely unknown state of affairs, Murphy got yet another peculiar request for his talents. The Nike and Apple corporations commissioned Murphy/LCD to make an iPod workout album for Nike+ wearers that was one continuous workout song. The EP was aptly titled 45:33. Originally only available for download from iTunes, DFA/EMI decided to release it as an EP.

In March 2007, DFA/EMI released Murphy's second full-length LCD album Sound of Silver to rave reviews. "Over and over, these songs reveal how a wise-cracking record geek can still achieve rapture," wrote Barry Walters in Spin. LCD was very much a musician's kind of band as well as a critic's kind of band. It was the kind of band college students loved to dance to, even if they had no idea where that disco beat came from. The lead single from Sound of Silver, "North American Scum," was witty and sonically infectious. Murphy divulged to Battaglia that the second LCD record was about being "honorable to perspectives that really come from me. Because that's the way I think I should do things now." Sound of Silver topped an endless number of critics' top ten lists, including Rolling Stone, where it landed at number seven. "LCD's James Murphy has always been a studio whiz, but even his biggest fans never dreamed he'd make a masterpiece like this," stated the magazine. In 2007, Sound of Silver was nominated for, but didn't win, a Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album.

Another popular track from Sound of Silver was "All My Friends," which Shuster called, "a Talking Heads-like tune using a seven-minute piano riff that deals mainly with diminished youth and being apart from loved ones." Scottish band Franz Ferdinand picked up on the song and recorded their own unique take of the song. Murphy was so impressed by their reinterpretation that DFA released a 7 inch single with LCD's original version on one side and Franz Ferdinand's on the other. After a highly successful summer tour co-headlining with Arcade Fire in 2007, both of those bands released a limited edition 7 inch single of cover songs. LCD fans were lucky to have so many rare singles available to them. LCD Soundsystem also shipped off the six-track EP A Bunch of Stuff, which contained reimagined versions of songs from Sound of Silver.

For the Record …

Members include James Murphy , singer, songwriter, producer, DJ; born on February 4, 1970, in Princeton, NJ; married Mandy Coon.

Drummer for numerous punk bands including Brooklyn post-hardcore band Speedking, 1995; producer, mixer, and engineer for various bands including Six Finger Satellite, Les Savy Fav, and the Rapture; with partner Tim Goldsworthy formed the production team and record label DFA; recorded the single "Losing My Edge" under the moniker LCD Soundsystem, DFA, 2002; released LCD Soundsystem, DFA/Capitol, 2005; commissioned by Nike for 45:33, EMI, 2006; released Sound of Silver, DFA/EMI, 2007.

Addresses: Record company—DFA/Capitol Records, 1750 Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90028; phone: 323-462-6252. Web site—LCD Soundsystem,

With years of partying behind him, Murphy now finds solace in his family life and Brazilian jujitsu, of which he is a devoted practitioner. In 2007, LCD Soundsystem went on tour with a revolving cast of players that included Whang and Mahoney, as well as guitarist Al Doyle (Hot Chip), guitarist J.D. Mark, bassist Phil Skarich, and multi-instrumentalist Matt Thornley. Making top ten lists for the end of 2007, touring around the world playing to enormous festival crowds and smaller celebrity-packed sweaty venues, Murphy knows he can't continue to tour forever or try to be anything he's not. "‘Cool’ for me has never been kids having to buy our record for the equivalent of $20 in a store in Milan because it's an import," he told Mar. "‘Cool’ is never letting things go out of print. I think that's the most respectable thing you can do. Music should not be temporary. Period."

Selected discography

LCD Soundsystem, DFA/Capitol, 2005.

45:33, DFA/EMI, 2006.

Sound of Silver, DFA/EMI, 2007.

A Bunch of Stuff, DFA/Capitol, 2007.



Daily News (Los Angeles), June 8, 2007.

New York Magazine, March 18, 2007.

Now Magazine (Toronto), March 15-21, 2007.

Rolling Stone, December 27, 2007; January 10, 2008.

Spin, March, 2007.

Urb Magazine, February 26, 2008.


"LCD Rock the Dance Floor," Rolling Stone, (June 18, 2008).

"LCD Soundsystem," All Music Guide, (June 18, 2008).

—Shannon McCarthy