Live albums are a most difficult beast to approach. Sometimes power and energy can be lost, or they can just sound plain awful to listen to. Sometimes they catch the moment, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are a joyous celebration of a career, of a band at the absolute toppermost of the poppermost of their powers. That’s the case here.
Spanning 28 tracks and a running time of just over three hours (really) this live behemoth (it doesn’t seem fair to call it an album) seeks to recreate some of the moments from the seminal final LCD Soundsystem gig in Madison Square Garden in 2011. It certainly captures the sheer raw power and coiled-spring tension that LCD brought to the table. Anyone that has seen them live, will immediately recognise and feel, the exuberance, joy and love that they put into and get out of each and every one of these songs.
As James Murphy said, the 2012 Documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits! was more the experience of the band in a room and this album is how he hears the band in his head. Holding the crowd in the palm of their hand, alternating from disco-punk to funk, rock, electro and everything in between, with master of ceremonies James Murphy yelping, screaming, laughing and singing his way through these songs. Sounding at times like David Bowie, Iggy Pop and David Byrne to name just a few, this is the most comfortable and accomplished James Murphy has sounded as a front man.
This album has been remixed and remastered by Murphy and it sounds all the better for it. The drums sound crisp, the bass sounds fat and round. On some songs the remixing highlights some synth lines and countermelodies which may not have been apparent on the original album version, or may not have been there at all. For example on ‘North American Scum’ raucous brass can be heard on the chorus which really lifts it to the next level. ‘Someone Great’ has been speeded up slightly and is all the better for it. ‘All My Friends’ sounds even more fragile and like it could fall apart at any given moment, if that was possible.
The Long Goodbye finishes with an extended version of ‘New York I Love You..’ wringing every last bit of adulation and emotion from the endless pauses and it is a fitting way to finally (three years later) bring down the curtain on the band. This is an album more for the fans than the casual listener although, after a few listens, those casual listeners could quite quite easily be fans themselves. Shut up and play the hits was the mantra, but here they play not only the well known tunes but also the the cover, the b-sides, the Nike commissioned track, pretty much everything.
It dips a little bit at certain points throughout the album, but we can forgive that. They gave the people what they wanted and then some. They didn’t lose their edge. If this is to be the last we hear of LCD Soundsystem, then this is a fine way to leave it. James Murphy and Co. can hold their head high and ride off into the sunset and be immensely proud of what they have done.