There is no warming up for James Murphy. Life is charged with an electric current, an ever-schizophrenic and seizured flow, and on his latest album, “Sound of Silver,” not a single dry beat is spawned before he launches full throttle into his signature vigorous swell of anxious synths and panting falsetto. Above all, Murphy’s music is dance music. He seamlessly works textured riffs and convulsive rhythms into his sonic whirlwind — a blend of electronica, rock, pop and punk that manages to be as elegant as it is dynamic.
Murphy, founder of DFA Records and mix-master extraordinaire, started LCD Soundsystem with four cohorts as an opportunity to make his own music, not just retool and refuel the work of others. “Sound of Silver” is the second all-star studio album under the LCD name; their debut “LCD Soundsystem” was released in February 2005. The quintet also released the workout symphony “45:33” last year on which, in characteristic Murphy form, the slow stretch recommended to begin a workout was shunned in favor of an eruption into calculated syncopation.
LCD Soundsystem packs each skillfully-crafted album with contagious energy, as should be the case with any and all good dance music. Each track’s infectious reverb channels both anthem and tribal chant, driving the album toward tricked-out perfection, leaving you sweaty and satisfied in its hazy aftermath. It’s difficult to assign a track as “the best” among such a qualified bunch, but album opener “Get Innocuous!” and the subsequent “North American Scum” may tie for the title.
Yet “Sound of Silver” isn’t just a bag of strawberry Pop Rocks exploding into your unsuspecting eardrums: Just as LCD’s eponymous 2005 release featured the occasional necessary and well-deserved respite from the dance floor (the pristine sparkler “Great Release,” for one), the new album has its own assortment of carefully-composed charisma. These songs showcase a humble and unsure Murphy, for whom the fluttering of a dejected wail overcomes the flailing of dancing appendages.
Murphy’s heartbreaking lullaby “Someone Great” is his most tender and earnest song to date. It is a song to someone lost, and his delicately packaged lyrics and quivering voice are arresting. “To tell the truth I saw it coming,/ The way you were breathing./ But nothing can prepare you for it,/ the voice on the other end,” he sings to a passed friend, maybe even an ex-lover. Also romantic is the album’s closer “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” A Kermit-esque Murphy begins cautiously, murmuring over the simple but gorgeous chord progression, even if the track may be a little too Brooklyn for its own good. Regardless, these songs prove that melancholy need not be maudlin — each song’s plaintive meditation elegantly glides atop lasers, pulses, piano and chimes.
The strength of Murphy’s two studio albums and single iTunes jaunt under the LCD Soundsystem moniker begs the question: How much more of this stuff can he make and still sound fresh and cool? Though his albums are by no means repetitive, they all contain the same elements: the layering and interweaving of synthesized percussion creating spastic beats. But multiple listens present autonomous pieces surging with independent rhythms, bells and winds. Add to that Murphy’s haunting vibrato that simultaneously scrapes a drunken moan and burrows the deepest blue.
But while each song has its own structure and form, it is a lot of the same kind of music, and with such creativity and raw emotion evidently at hand, Murphy seems capable of mastering much more. Then again, it’s not all that often that an artist can deliver such spunk with such consistent fervor, so maybe asking for more would take this fizzed-out roller coaster for granted.