Audiobiography: LCD Soundsystem (Self-titled)

 

As told by LCD Soundsystem’s – “LCD Soundsystem” (2005)

You know how they say that a band’s early stuff is always the best? Well, they—whoever they are—are right. Because that’s me, first and best. A band’s first album is like a first child in a growing family; the favorite. You never know exactly what you’re doing when you make it, so it comes out just a little bit more raw and consequently more rad. People are starting to figure that out now since LCD Soundsystem is touring again. I’m becoming quite the hot commodity. But these days, I’m not for sale. I haven’t been for quite some time. Let’s rewind…

So there I was in that big, rectangular, brown paper bag that every indie record store has given its customers since the dawn of time. I’d barely been unboxed that day when this dude pulled me off a shelf lookin’ all sexy and new, still in my shrink rap. Somehow, I’d made it all the way to the west coast from my original birthplace, Brooklyn, NY.

Anyway, the guy who bought me was a college student living in Berkeley, a college town in California, not too far from San Francisco. He seemed pretty rad judging from the conversation occurring between he and his buddy during that fateful day’s shopping trip. Eric Dolphy’s “Out to Lunch” was playing over the P.A. in the record store and I was pretty astonished that this kid—no more than 20 years old—picked up on that. It seemed like most college kids in 2005 were busy bumping 50 Cents and the Black Eyed Beans or some shit.

But Todd—that was his name—had some pretty great taste, if I do say so myself. I know what you’re thinking though…this rad kid’s name is Todd? How raaad could he be? Yea yea yea, sure. In most cases, a guy named “Todd” is as square as they come, but this kid figured that out himself and used it to his advantage. He seemed like the kinda guy that pretty much flew under the radar in high school and only kept a handful of close friends, then really hitting his stride in college. In college, Todd was the dude that everybody in the Environmental Sciences department knew that they could ask for help on the homework from the night before, as well as where to find a dope party to attend on a Friday or Saturday night. He had his shit together, but he also knew how to have fun.

He lived with that sort of sense of borrowed nostalgia that many people seem to obsess over. You know, that ‘born in the wrong era, stuff.’ He was pretty serious about it, though. I remember I once heard him say in reference to the hippie generation, ‘Time’s were different then, man. I wish I could go to sleep and wake up as a 20 year old in 1969. I mean, how cool would it be to hitch-hike to Woodstock during summer break, drop acid while listening to some of the best music ever, make a bunch of new friends, couch surf around New York for a week, and then go back to school, finish your degree, and become a professional yuppie while raising a family in the 80s. Like, who wouldn’t want to do that?’

Yup. This was the dude who bought me. I was ok with that. It was pretty obvious to me that Todd hoped to be part of some sort of ‘counter-culture’ for the 2000s. He never let himself go full hippie, though. It takes discipline to be a recreational drug user in this day and age and still get your shit done. It’s definitely not for everybody. He had his head on straight enough that he could party and experiment a little, but not at the cost of what mattered most in life; his future.

It was kind of a perfect match between he and I. So much of what my music is about is having those wild moments stored in the old memory banks and keeping them there. Keeping them so that later on when life’s doldrums drag you down, you can reflect on those old times. But for now, in 2005, he fancied himself something of a cool, hip DJ kinda dude. That’s where I came in.

Sure, he’d spun me at home a few times. Usually, I was playing in the background while he went about making some Punnett squares or finishing up some lab reports. Occasionally, he and a couple of roommates had some beers out on the patio and wanted something fun to listen to while BBQing; I was there for that too. But the real fun started when there was a party nearby.

The most epic night I can remember was when this really cute girl from one of Todd’s geology classes threw a party at her parents’ place a few miles away from school. It was the end of finals week and she just happened to have an open house. She was thin, not too tall, and usually wore pants and a lot of cut-up indie band t-shirts. Her name was Riley. She had dark brown hair done up in this little pixie cut that Todd and his friends loved back then. I’d heard them drooling over her with their beers and BBQ quite a few times.

Her parents lived in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Berkeley. A cool little suburb with rows of trees on both sides, full of single-story, mid-century homes with a decent amount of yardage between each house. Ripe for a late night freak-out. Anyway, she’d asked Todd to DJ the party because they’d connected over mutual music interests in the past. And remember, I’m not an album full of club bangers, here. This is before the big, neon and glitter-filled EDM bubble suffocated the United States and took over the radio waves. This is when good dance music was more on the underground side of things—unless you considered The Pussy Cat Dolls good dance music. If so, I…I really can’t help you.

So the night of the party comes—it was a Friday, I think—and Todd gets ready to head out. The wheels of steel, standing floor speakers, and EQ are ready to go and in the back of the car when he packs me up in a crate with a few of his other favorites. Yes, by this point, I know I’m a favorite. There was a good mix in that crate. Anything from indie dance like Ladytron and Fischerspooner, to some proper house and techno from the likes of Moodymann and Robert Hood…on white-label, of course. It was clearly going to be a good night.

We get to the house around 9 so he could set up and already this Riley girl was pretty buzzed. She told Todd that she’d pay him for the night, but he declined and only asked for a beer or six in return. What a gentleman, right? So she happily agreed and said she couldn’t wait to get everybody in the living room to dance.

Shortly after, the first record of the night starts spinning and people start showing up to the party. It’s the kind of crowd you might expect at a Berkeley party…hosted by a girl with a pixie cut…named Riley. Lots of hipster types. You know the crowd. Skinny jeans, The Smiths t-shirts, cut-off shorts, Chuck Taylors with black Sharpie on the soles, American Apparel hoodies, etc etc. They were Todd and Riley’s kinda people which made them my kinda people. Most importantly, they dug good music.

At first, the music was pretty tame and the volume wasn’t so loud. That way, Riley and others could hear the doorbell. But by the time 10:30 came around, the front door was left unlocked and the living room was pretty crammed, even with all the furniture moved out of the way. The Whitest Boy Alive’s “Inflation” single was playing and people were swaying and dancing in a mellow kind of groove. There were maybe 30 people in the living room with another 20-30 in the adjacent kitchen and dining area. Beyond that, the smoking crowd was hanging outside in the backyard. The sliding glass door was open and it was a beautiful night in June. Oh, did I mention there was also a keg out there? The night’s buzz was starting to set in and clearly it was time to turn it up a notch. Now was my time to shine! And I’m thinkin, ‘Yes, my minions, let’s dance!’

So Todd pulls me out of the crate, sets me on the second deck, lines up the needle with the very beginning of “Daft Punk is Playing at My House,” waits for the last guitar notes of “Inflation” to ring out, and cuts the fader to the right while smacking the play button.

‘uh, OW! OW!’ and the party lit up! It was as if the living room’s vintage wood floor dropped out and a new light-up dance floor sprang up in it’s place.

Unanimously, people started shouting applause and grooving way harder. Suddenly, all the dudes had better dance moves, and all the ladies took notice. I mean it’s hard not to dance like a fool and rock out with your air-cowbell to these jams, and I’ll be damned if you don’t look cooler than ever while doing it. That’s the power of the right music. My music. The people that didn’t know me, just had to find out what was playing. The people that did know me, didn’t want me to stop. And everyone—including Todd—was having too much fun to want to listen to anything else. So they let me spin. From start to finish. Which was awesome for my dude because he got to get down and dance with Riley the whole time. All he had to do was run back behind the decks to flip me over once until my first record was over. But then, people wanted to continue to boogie to disc two. The B-sides…the underground hits…that’s when Todd decided it was time to get back to it.

The self-titled LP was one thing, but when “Beat Connection” hits you in the funky bone, you’re in for a doozy. That rump of yours is gunna shake itself straight into oblivion. I guarantee it. So Mr. DJ started up the track and went to work. “Beat Connection” was going full-steam ahead when Todd cued up Robert Hood’s “Low Life” and beat matched it to perfection. The rest, as they say, is history. I’d done my job and turned that sucker out! Back in the crate I went while the rest of the night turned into a bit of a blur.

The next morning, the house was completely destroyed. I mean, it was practically unrecognizable. It was awesome. Throughout the course of the night, the keg and all the bottles of booze were emptied, some other more…elicit substances made their appearances, almost all the hanging portraits were no longer on the walls, those same walls had a few new beauty marks, there were a few strategically placed sinks and toilets that were in dire need of some Scrubbing Bubbles, and let’s just say all of the bedroom linens needed some refreshing. As I said earlier, it was epic. One for the history books.

And best of all, Todd and Riley truly hit it off that night. After the party, my man Todd was pretty much the only one that stayed and helped Riley clean up the next afternoon. Together they transformed the house from looking like a war had broken out, to looking like…maybe a small military exercise had been executed with minimal casualties. Ever since that night, they’ve been inseparable.

Actually, I forgot to mention that I’m telling you this story from their studio apartment in San Francisco. Sometime during those 11 years between then and now, they’d finished college, acquired careers, and recently had a cute little baby boy. Tyler is his name. Kinda sorta a cross between Todd and Riley. And nothing makes that kid happier than listening to the sound of (you guessed it) me. Every other weekend or so they’ll break me out and drop the needle on me. Tyler bounces up and down in his little baby walker while they exchange smiles and stories about those memories they kept of wilder times. Listening to my music makes them feel alive again. It brings them back to the party without actually being there. My music lets them relive their favorite memories. They might not realize it yet, but my music is also planting itself in a whole new series of memories with their new life. Their better life.


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