CULTURE | 5 Years After LCD Soundsystem’s Long Goodbye

This past weekend marked a benchmark for the indie dance music community. Five years ago, LCD Soundsystem made their final swan song under the roof of New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden during an epic, four hour long journey through the band’s trajectory. Tears trickled. Joy soared. And in a penultimate moment of balloons, delay, and  light, one of the most prominent heartbeats of New York’s post-9/11 indie scene took its final bow.

In the years that followed, the band released a documentary, a limited box set, and multiple assurances of their commitment to their word. The Long Goodbye, a series of shows leading up to their closing act at the Garden, was their funeral: a melancholic, but tender celebration of their music, their extended family of fans and musicians, and the legacy they were prepared to leave behind. I was fortunate enough, as detailed in a previous editorial, to have attended one of their final shows; to this day, it is still the happiest day of my life.

This past year, however, saw their resurgence. After years of sticking to the consensus, James Murphy and his dream team made the decision to shift their own history and bring LCD out of retirement after discovering they maybe had a few more things to say. And while some fans were happy and naysayers had the opportunity to scream things like “I told you so” and “cash grab,” Murphy, who has always been seen as the beating heart of the band, didn’t expect the irony of becoming the very figure he championed against. A musician whose oral and musical history consisted of looking up to the Gods of left-field rock music, who clamored to be himself while being Eno or Reed, and had subsequently become that figure for the souls who saw him as such, all of a sudden became  the figure behind the curtain. Built on an unintended reputation as a hero for the oddballs who needed a relevant voice at a time where figures like Bowie had all but vanished, the memory of a pure moment had felt cheapened to some and Murphy, to them, was a façade. Not that he wanted to be a hero, but he was one, and their hero had unintentionally made their cries of “I was there” less important to them. They had bought into this fantasy which was bigger than them: a fantasy comprised of merchandise, expanded experiences of those final moments, and the word of a musician who, like them, romanticized the idea of treasured experiences in time.

Now that it was no longer the end, it was just another drop in the bucket. I was one of these disillusioned few.

Murphy would eventually apologize having acknowledged his worst fears in the wake of their announcement. He had expected backlash, but had never expected a reality where the few would find that shimmering night under the mirror ball less special to them and hurt; something he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy and that’s because he understands the feeling of being a fan and of idolizing an idea (something which is constantly revisited in his music and DJ sets).

Having had time to let the wound heal, the announcement would come that LCD Soundsystem wasn’t just going to go to major festivals, they were going on the road. LCD Soundsystem wasn’t just going on the road, they were working on new music, new stories, and they were going into this with five long years of reflection on who they are as people, musicians, and as figures to the misunderstood weirdos. And on what was essentially the fifth anniversary, they made their first presence onstage again in New York at Webster Hall officially pronouncing themselves as ‘back from the dead.’ And for some odd reason, it all feels right.

A band as influential as LCD Soundsystem is always going to have some traction, especially given the colorful history surrounding the mirage of what was purportedly their last dance. So it’s adequately melancholic and bittersweet to see them doing what they love  to do especially if they claim not to be doing it for money or press, but honestly because the timing is there and they have an urge to feed their creative juices. And yes – in retrospect, it would have been absolutely silly to craft a new pseudonym to encapsulate the sound they’re working on when the fans, in all honesty, would look at any new content and just plainly call it another LCD record. That’s preposterous. And while they’ve always toyed with the idea of the absurdity of fame for being good at their hobbies, they’ve never intentionally lied flat out to those who know them best: their extended family of fans who go home to revisit old friends through the power of their records.

So was it all a ruse five years ago? No. As stated, they’ve never intentionally lied to the people who love them the most, but that doesn’t understate the power of unintended hurt.

Sure – the pain is still present. But the promise of something with perspective is there. And even if the promise is semi-hollow, given the turn of events, at least it’s an attempt to cater to the few who now have the opportunity to say “I was there” once again. And for all we know, maybe this will be the last time.