Tues Oct 11
128 NE Russell
James Murphy is a Svengali. He can be pedantic and particular, at times even difficult. Yet this 35-year-old, who always looks like he just rolled out of bed, is totally loveable. He's the perfect indie pop star for 2005: a shambolic music nerd who throws the best parties, runs the coolest record label, and makes radically referential tunes (which please record-store clerks and dancefloors alike). More than that, he understands irony so well he could write the dictionary definition.
Irony kickstarted Murphy's career. In 2002, Murphy's relatively unknown one-man band, LCD Soundsystem, released a 12-inch single called "Losing My Edge" on then little-known label DFA Records. Told from the perspective of a jaded, bitter club DJ, the track name checks Suicide, Sun Ra, and Jamaican sound clashes, and features barbs like, "I'm losing my edge, to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent" and "I used to work in a record store/I had everything before everyone." "Losing My Edge" became a meta-narrative for the narrowing gap between the dance and rock scenes, a soundtrack for post-everything people who laughed at the narrator's fear of losing hipster cred while secretly identifying with it. The narrator was James Murphy.
With "Losing My Edge," Murphy had laid out his raison d'être as the anti-hero of the '00s. He undoes rock's mythology while creating a world where gay disco, '70s punk funk, and Morrissey can all be musically referenced in one song.
Of course, Murphy came to the table prepared for the mission. Raised in a "faceless suburban town" in New Jersey, Murphy has been an obsessive music fan since his preteens and is a veteran of numerous '90s indierock bands. Since 1999, he has recorded bands with ex-UNKLE producer Tim Goldsworthy and put them out on their joint label, DFA Records. Less a label than a production powerhouse, DFA turned little-known New York garage outfit the Rapture into a swirling, funky, cowbell-and-sax-propelled punk-funk juggernaut of a band.
DFA releases allowed the world a glimpse of Murphy's precise musical vision, but with this year's release of his self-titled debut as LCD Soundsystem—as well as the intense touring that's followed—Murphy has laid himself bare. The album is unsurprisingly an amalgam of influences from the Beatles to Daft Punk, but it's LCD's live show that really encapsulates his approach. Leading a five-piece band, Murphy resolutely refuses to play the rock-star part—he basically looks and acts exactly like the guy behind the counter at your local indie record shop, no matter if he's singing the lyrics to searing electro number "Tribulations" or banging on portable percussion to create the backdrop for "Beat Connection."
DFA may now be in a partnership with megalith EMI, but Murphy's still got his indie ideals; you sense he intends to be that one guy who made it big but didn't sell out for as long as he can. And if he has to argue for it, so be it. "There's a certain energy that I want and I'm willing to sacrifice a lot to get it. And it's exciting to keep fighting. That's why I started a label. That's what I do all the time. That's why I'm here."