It’s no exaggeration to say that James Murphy is one of the saviours of dance music as it currently stands. This year’s emphasis on punk-fuelled rockers for the dance floor owes a lot to his impetus – LCD Soundsystem and the DFA label were encouraging such hedonism well back in 2004. So is Daft Punk still playing at his house, or has he moved on to the next level?
You bet he has. It only takes a minute of Get Innocuous to realise that the familiar edginess, energy and momentum remain, but this has taken the promise of debut album Movement to the stratosphere. This is hugely affirming music, mixed with a heady rush of synthesizers and David Bowie-esque vocals, all fed through Murphy’s personal blender.
It doesn’t stop there – in fact it gets better, for Murphy’s songwriting now rivals his talents as beatsmith. This means seven minute club tracks such as Someone Great remain tightly structured, never losing their interest, while radio length songs such as Watch The Tapes are tightly coiled springs.
The latter presents Murphy’s love of New York garage, part of a general showing off of his record collection. Clearly rooted in the late 1970s post punk, he checks Gang Of Four, New Order and ESG in all but name – and in the title track, even flirts with a deadpan vocal a la Human League, before a wonderful whoosh of audio scenery heads the song into more ambient territory.
The textures Murphy achieves on this album are astonishing at times, sending the eyebrows skyward with their breadth and originality. Razor sharp bass lines, closely microphoned drums with fast moving hi-hats create an irrepressible momentum.
But the songs are astonishing too – and, crucially, their lyrics. All My Friends has a stately grandeur U2 would be proud of. Time To Get Away drops a hint Murphy might be tiring of his home city, a feeling magnified tenfold by New York I Love You, whose deceptive title masks the lyrics “New York I love you, but you’re bringing me down”. The song gets only a sparse backing track, the only one of the album’s nine not to get the feet tapping, though it blasts guitars at your face like a hairdryer toward the end.
Taken end to end, Sound Of Silver is a thrilling, exhilarating ride on a fast machine. Murphy’s hyperactive compositions have rhythm, energy, feeling and bite – and while dance music will claim it, that needn’t restrict its coverage. You’d be mad to miss out on one of this year’s essential albums.