LCD Soundsystem / James Murphy & Pat Mahoney
A Bunch of Stuff EP / Fabriclive 36
[Fabric; DFA/Capitol; 2007]
Rating: 7.1 / 7.6
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It's no secret that LCD Soundsystem's frontman James Murphy has a sweet spot in his tastes: The moment when post-punk and disco were carrying on their clandestine affair, roughly 1979-1982. The records he loves most have aged better than most of the dance music that came before or after them, because what their creators cared most about was freshness of sound; they abjured synth presets, classic drum sounds, received-wisdom arrangements, overfamiliar ways of singing. It's a little odd, then, that so much of what LCD does best involves recapitulating the ideas of music recorded 25 years ago or more.
The best track on their iTunes-only A Bunch of Stuff EP-- six tracks, 49 minutes, all versions of songs from Sound of Silver-- doesn't sound much like LCD Soundsystem. That's because it isn't: It's a cover of "All My Friends" performed by Franz Ferdinand, and recast in a full-on dance-rock arrangement that keeps racheting into higher and higher gears. The Sound of Silver version hews closely to its sources (especially New Order's "Ceremony"); Franz Ferdinand's radically different arrangement gets around the question of quotation and paraphrase, leaving only a grand evocation of the post-punk chill. (John Cale's version of the same song, released at the same time in the UK, has shown up over here on yet another digital-only EP.) The other highlight is at the close of the EP: a galloping live-on-the-radio reprise of "Us v Them", played by LCD's spectacularly tight and forceful (and under-documented) onstage incarnation.
Between them, there's a quartet of remixes, none of which are quite as good as their Silver sources, but a couple of which are noteworthy anyway. The "c2 Remix Rev.3" of "Sound of Silver" is ambiguously labeled, but turns out to be a spacious, drone-based mix by Detroit techno master Carl Craig. And Soulwax's 10-minute remix of "Get Innocuous" is a jittery, slow-building jam that spotlights the analog sequencers and drum machines of Murphy's favorite era. (As an elbow to the ribs, it even quotes Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express".)
LCD's love for that period continues on a Fabriclive mix CD credited to Murphy and the band's superhuman live drummer Pat Mahoney. The records in their crate (the mix is apparently all vinyl-based) aren't entirely from that sweet spot-- they drop in some ringers from Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy's DFA label (LCD's own "Hippie Priest Bum-Out" and Still Going's new "Still Going Theme"), as well as Daniel Wang's 1993 "Like Some Dream (I Can't Stop Dreaming)". Still, it mostly sticks to the sort of songs about desire and dancing you might have heard at a particularly cutting-edge club during Margaret Thatcher's first term. If they don't get in much of the underground rock that's the other half of their roots, they make up for it by beginning and ending with tracks from Love of Life Orchestra's 1980 album Extended Niceties-- David Byrne's rhythm guitar on "Beginning of the Heartbreak" sounds a bit like Al Doyle's on A Bunch of Stuff's version of "Us v Them", actually.