Prinzhorn Dance School
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The decade is quickly rolling towards its end. Once we’ve packed away the skinny denims, piled up the rediscovered post-punk records and shamefully hidden those eye-searing slogan tees under our beds, we’re going to have to sit down, look back on the decade that was and decide who gets that special spot in the history books as one of the era’s defining musical figures. The Strokes had the tunes, wore the threads, rocked the hair and dated enough film-star/model types to tick off a rock star checklist of yesteryear, but they never really made it past the backlash. Jack White certainly carved a niche, but the initial candy coloured rush has waned and now we’re left with an oddly dressed grumpy uncle of sorts. The Libertines? Uh, no.
Let’s be frank: the rock star blueprint of old has failed us in the new century. So who have we turned to for inspiration in a decade destined to be famed for a newfound level of musical hyper accessibility that’s so overwhelming? It feels like bands are practically queuing up outside our doors in the hopes that we’ll give them even a second of our time.
Turns out it just might be a tubby, 37-year-old man from Brooklyn. James Murphy may not have his face plastered across magazine covers the world over. He may not have dated infamous models nor been chased by the paparazzi to the point where even your grandmother knows who he is. But take a look at the record collections of our recent Mercury Prize winners, step out onto the dancefloor of any club night of late – indie, traditional or otherwise – or listen to the sounds of younger musicians and fans expressing a simultaneous love of nu-rave, no-wave and whatever else tickles their fancy. They all owe at least a small debt to what Murphy started with his early productions – as part of the DFA – on songs like The Rapture’s_ ‘House of Jealous Lovers’_. Inadvertent it may be, but his work has played an important part in the blurring and eradicating of the musical dividing lines of old. Whether he meant to or not, he’s pointed the way forward for a lot of people, and it’s a favour that looks set to be repaid tonight as the hordes file into Brixton Academy for a performance by Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem.
Entering a few minutes after his band launch into the opening grooves of ‘Us v Them’ _from Sound of Silver_, Murphy is an incredibly average sight to behold. Clad in just a white T-shirt and less than skinny jeans, he plants himself in front of a mic-stand and improbably keeps the audience transfixed with nothing more than his everyman demeanour and rambling asides.
Speedy, funk-fuelled renditions of ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’ _and _‘North American Scum’ _do their part by jacking everything up a notch before arms get raised into the air for _‘All My Friends’. A song that, when heard live, sounds like the one classic New Order forgot to write in their prime. ‘Tribulations’ and_ ‘Get Innocuous’ push things back towards the dancefloor with a powerful wall of noise that makes their recorded versions pale in comparison. It all comes to a head though with a set finishing take on early single _‘Yeah’. Murphy and the band let it build and build into such a sensory overload that, when it does suddenly stop, all you’re aware of is the massive smile plastered on your face before you join everyone else in screaming for more.
And more they give when they return for a throbbing ‘Someone Great’ _before ending everything with the _Berlin-era Lou Reed vibe of_ ‘New York I Love You’_. It’s all capped off by Murphy waving bye to the audience before stopping to give every one of his band members a kiss on the cheek as he exits the stage.
Does Murphy leave the audience filled with a sense that they’ve been awed into submission by a taste-making deity? No._ Not at all_. As said, what you see is what you get and tonight it’s a tubby guy on stage in a white T-shirt playing music he likes with his friends. No pretence, no artifice, no nothing. All anyone sees is an inescapable sense of passion and enthusiasm put on display by a man who is the personification of a record geek made good.
Which brings up a final point. James Murphy is at heart a geek. Just like all the other geeks staring up at him from the Brixton Academy floor. He may not sell millions of records or have his image printed on posters decorating the walls of younger fans, but on a night like tonight he just may have left a mark on a junior geek taking notes. The kind of smart young geek who may one day in the future have his image printed on posters for others to stare at. That’s the reality behind James Murphy’s quiet brilliance. Do you really need any more?
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