From the solid dance record that was their self-titled debut, LCD Soundsystem have managed to successfully evolve into one of the most essential acts around today. As solid as the debut was, you'd be forgiven for pegging them as a one trick pony. 2007's Sound Of Silver put paid to any of that by topping all the 'best of' lists that year, including All My Friends gaining the top spot on my "best tracks of the decade" list. With that record they stepped out of their dance shoes and became so well-rounded it's almost annoying. James Murphy's got his shit locked down. He hooks the chicks with his onstage antics and charisma, and appeals to the guys by looking like a record company executive that's trying his hand on the shop floor - and aceing it every time.
So what next then for Murphy and crew? Well there's only one thing for it. You follow all that up with an equally tough record and meet the throbbing expectation head on. I say "equally tough" but This Is Happening isn't quite as satisfying as Sound Of Silver although it's close enough. Opener Dance Yrself Clean is a hell of a way to kick off a record; starting slow then punching in with the most pleasing beats since Daft Punk last played in his house. All I Want is the other power-track here and one that really displays the multi-string bow with which this band wield their charm. Centered around a looping guitar chord, it stretches out over six minutes with very little in the way of chorus, it just goes on and on with trance-like sensibilities which are interjected with bleeps and synths that swirl and dive around this structure. Pow Pow is reminiscent of I'm Losing My Edge and also Talking Heads' use of spoken word. Closer Home wraps everything up so perfectly with a near eight minute swirler of unbridled joy. It's another one that's gloriously reminiscent of Talking Heads and one that displays Murphy's trick of "all verse" delivery. The length of these songs coupled with the "all meat and no fat" structure gives an album like this some considerable might.
Everything James Murphy creates under this banner will ultimately be classed as dance music but this has an intelligence rarely seen in the genre. It's fiercely contemporary with songs like All I Want but then gloriously retro with Change and You Wanted A Hit. It's got its weak points however. Somebody's Calling Me is a bit tedious and lead single Drunk Girls (which just sounds like a lazy attempt to prick up the ears of radio listeners) is a touch thin. Having said that, along with I Can Change it's really the only conceivable choice they've got in terms of releases, when every other song here averages out at seven minutes. But when you're surrounded by such quality it seems darn-right picky to pinpoint these as weaknesses. It's a pretty rare thing when you get an album that I clearly haven't enjoyed as much as the predecessor that's so good there's really no reason to mark it any lower. (Having said that Sound Of Silver should really have been 4.5)