If there was an exclusive school for the kids who were too cool for school, James Murphy would be too cool for even that. A drop-out and waster then doer and wooer on Brooklyn’s creative early 00s scene, he was a label boss, punk guitarist, engineer to David Holmes and DJ before striking gold with LCD Soundsystem. With his radar firmly fixed on the esoteric, Murphy’s band employed an amalgam of the scratchy funk of Talking Heads and the burnished chrome of New Order, close-up yet widescreen, with just enough cavity in the cadence to let his Mark E Smith-ish vocals through-uh.
LCD Soundsystem – Losing My Edge
Their first single, 2002’s Losing My Edge, is a magically arch and knowing nodding wink to an underground DIY scene that Murphy himself helped create. The music is great; a huge, jolting, on-the-one bassline and twitchy rhythm that sounds simultaneously Casiotone retro and man-machine futuristic, a No Wave elbow jerker from 1981 perhaps, (or a facsimile of Killing Joke’s Change – check it out), or the latest drop by the hottest new group this side of the L Train platform in Williamsburg.
I was there in 1968, I was there at the first Can show in Cologne.
I was there in 1974, at the first Suicide practices in a loft in New York City. I was working on the organ sounds.
I was there when Captain Beefheart started up his first band. I told him, ‘Don’t do it that way, you’ll never make a dime.’
I was the first guy to play Daft Punk to the rock kidzzz. I played it at CBGBs. Everybody thought I was crazy.
We all know I was there.
Murphy’s attention-grabbing half-spoken vocal is both rapt and rapped, reeling off a list of achingly hip groups and musical reference points, an exhausting display of one-upmanship, delivered deadpan and with at least half a tongue in cheek, a ‘completed it, mate!’ brag for men of a certain age.
I’ve never been wrong. I used to work in a record store. I got everything before anyone.
I was there in the Paradise Garage DJ booth with Larry Levan.
I was there in Jamaica at the great sound clashes.
I woke up naked on the beach in Ibiza in 1988.
(Didn’t we all, James. Didn’t we all?)
Every line a small story in its own right.
Losing My Edge was written during a spell of unshakeable paranoia, when Murphy lived in constant fear of being ousted from his position as DJ and taste maker numero uno in New York’s most fashionable underground spots. He’d be playing Can and ESG and the B-52s and watch on as other DJs, seeing people’s reactions to these hot ‘new’ sounds began playing the same records in their own pop-up clubs. ‘His’ records were now ‘their’ records and Murphy was no longer the cool, edgy guy on the scene. At least, that’s what his paranoia told him.
I’m losing my edge to the kids from France and from London.
I’m losing my edge to the kids whose footsteps I hear when they get on the decks.
I’m losing my edge to the to the internet seekers who can tell me every member of every good group from 1962 to 1978.
I’m losing my edge to the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties.
But I was there!
Perhaps you – yeah, even you! – record collectors, musical kleptomaniacs, scene hoppers, vinyl fetishists and snobs, are the butt of a twenty year old in-joke. Perhaps not. But, perhaps yes.
I heard you have a compilation of every good song ever done by anybody.
I heard you have a vinyl of every Niagara record on German import.
I heard that you have a white label of every seminal Detroit techno hit – 1985, ’86, ’87.
I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables.
I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars.
I hear everybody that you know is more relevant than everybody that I know.
But I was there!
I was there!