by Matthew Tilby

It’s interesting, isn’t it? A man in his early forties, heavy set and somewhat grizzly in his appearance, has left a lasting legacy on dance music.

Three years after James Murphy made the controversial and surprising decision to disband LCD Soundsystem after one final gig at Madison Square Garden, the effect this misfit group of DJ’s and performers had on dance music is finally being felt.

From the band’s first single in 2002 – the piss-take of modern music culture known as “Losing My Edge” – to the closing track on their third and final album in 2010 called “Home”, LCD Soundsystem, and especially Murphy, did things their own way. It wasn’t about huge amounts of bass and a drop that clubheads were waiting for. Nor was it about short and sharp tracks. Much of LCD Soundsystem’s discography was a marathon, not a sprint. You needed to devote time to these tracks to get the most out of them. And when you did, there was at least one part of your body moving.

Much of the band’s music centred around one or two major features. A driving hook or a repetitive loop, that gradually builds into the crazy, earworm inducing moments of indie-dance brilliance.

So why was one of the mid-2000’s most unheralded and underappreciated dance acts cut down in the prime of its life? Because Murphy wanted it that way. Much of the speculation centered around Murphy’s decision to go out on top. “Why only three albums?” cried the adoring masses. Murphy claimed that he had a sense of dissatisfaction touring and creating these albums. It wasn’t fun. He wanted to go out on a high note, after releasing three albums of pure energy, emotion, and at times, a bit of fun. Songs like the constantly buzzing and booming “Get Innocuous!” were so lovingly blanketed by the guitar-laden efforts of band heavy tracks like “Movement”.

You only have to look at bands in the past that’ve gone on way past their prime. Bands like The Who and The Clash stayed on a little bit longer than they should have. That’s not to say that LCD Soundsystem should be compared to these two musical giants genre-wise, but when was the last time you heard someone say they enjoyed the 2006 release of Endless Wire?

Murphy had created dance music for a different kind of dance fan. No longer was it entirely synths and turntables. The kids in their fluoro singlets and glow sticks were replaced by men in their mid 20’s, maybe even 30’s, wearing plaid shirts and skinny jeans. Bands like The Rapture and Holy Ghost!, who are signed to Murphy’s label DFA Records, can credit much of their sound – one a furious dance punk sound, with handclaps and beat boxing, and the other, a keyboard filled sensible dance fest – to the man who joked that he was “too old” and that “most of the time I don’t even sing, really.” Drum sets were just as commonplace at gigs as keyboards. Murphy had given people a style of music that they could relate to.

It’s a feeling that many felt right from the start, when on “Losing My Edge”, Murphy went on a spoken-word rampage, claiming that he was being overtaken by the new generation. He claimed he was losing his edge “to the kids whose footsteps I hear when they get on the decks … to the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia from the unremembered Eighties.”  But triumphantly, amidst a clash of high-hats, he retorts, and plenty of times throughout the 8 minute track, I might add: “I was there.”

LCD Soundsystem was nominated for 3 Grammy’s in its near 10-year lifespan. They never won. It was just never going to be one of those bands who went over well with the general public. That may have something to do with the 6-8 minutes that many of the band’s songs run for, yes, but it was never going to be a chance for the band to sell out. And that was because of one man.

Maybe that’s part of James Murphy’s brilliance. In what could easily be considered a “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” moment, the effect of LCD Soundsystem has now begun to seep into modern music. And with the near perfect, critically lauded albums under his belt, Murphy can go on with his future endeavours in the knowledge that he shaped indie music in a way that no one expected.