Photo by Tim Soter

LCD Soundsystem is indeed a real band — and a great dance-rock
band at that. You can forgive this coming as a surprise to the crowd who showed
up at the Echo in late October to see LCD make its Los Angeles debut, solely
on the basis of the press scrutiny accrued by front man James Murphy’s work
with DFA (Death From Above), a New York–based production team and record company.

Yet some hype is truth. Since 2001, Murphy and his British knob-twiddling
partner, Tim Goldsworthy, have produced, remixed and helped release a string
of rock-centric dance records (by the Rapture, Radio 4, Le Tigre and Metro Area,
among numerous others) that have lit up clubs and imaginations with a playful
balance of groove and power. Yet rather than embrace their “Neptunes of
the Underground” tag and work with Britney and Janet (they’ve already walked
away from such opportunities), DFA have set out on a road of higher expectations.

“We want to have an effect on popular culture,” says
Murphy confidently and unabashedly the day of the LCD show. “We’re a little
more curatorial, interested in Warhol’s Factory and [Manchester’s post-punk
art hothouse] Factory Records.” He says DFA wants to work with “interesting
people who make music,” not with people who “waste their time making
records.” Notice the subtle difference?

If that sounds like self-aggrandizement, check the evidence, some
of it found on the recently released three-CD comp of the label’s singles titled,
rather simply, DFA Compilation #2. This music gets equal play, and equal
respect, from headz, fashionistas and modern-artisans alike. And now that DFA
has entered a worldwide distribution deal with EMI — initiated with the space-rock
boogie-oogie of LCD’s full-length debut in February — who says this smart, fierce
offspring of punk, disco and experimental obsessions can’t also create its own
commercial impact?

One reason Murphy and Goldsworthy are so focused on DFA’s
overall intentions is that they’ve been around this block. Murphy spent the
’90s as an indie-rock drummer and budding engineer — “Steve Albini taught
me how to record over the phone.” And though Murphy no longer feels musical
kinship with much of that scene (“too genre-y”), he’s unequivocal
that “DFA’s ethics come from there.” Meanwhile, Goldsworthy built
up his premillennial tension as an in-house mastermind at the trip-hop label
Mo’ Wax, where he collaborated with the likes of Money Mark and DJ Shadow. Murphy
and Goldsworthy met while assisting David Holmes with one of his imaginary soundtracks
in ’99, bonded over a variety of records (“We can be talking about vocals
and use the drums on T. Rex as a reference point,” says Murphy) and started
throwing now-legendary dance parties at Murphy’s Manhattan recording studio,
where techno, Krautrock, disco and punk mixed naturally. The vibe was more Paradise
Garage than velvet rope; Murphy would deejay for eight hours at a time and then
sweep up after everybody left.

Hence DFA’s naturally born art-school-meets-hardcore idealism
— encompassing gallery noiseniks like Black Dice, underground rock stars like
the Rapture, side projects from Japan’s psychedelic monsters the Boredoms and
snooty social-milieu commentary from LCD Soundsystem — united under a progressive
yet populist beat. It doesn’t matter that the outfit has been championed by
what Murphy calls “electroclash hooligans” and the hipsterati — the
DFA is not a pose.

“Look, in a certain way, we know we are the emperor’s new
band, that in some circles you have to say you like us or you look like a fool.”
He’s speaking of LCD, though he might as well be broaching the entire DFA venture.
“But I want us to actually be worth liking, so when you change as a person
we’ll continue to meet your standards, that when people get over the hype, the
clothes will actually remain real.”

Those who stayed at the Echo through LCD Soundsystem’s final noise-drenched
run through “Yeah!” (Crass Version) can attest. Here was a room full
of cooler-than-thous in a late-night frenzy that resembled a spazzy samba line,
pulled by a rhythm machine (two keyboards fronting three percussionists by that
point) delivering a groove simultaneously feminized by the influence of great
disco 12-inches and toughened by raw power. In other words, music worth caring

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.