The Art of Retirement in a Modern Rock Age: On LCD Soundsystem

I was intrigued, lightly, by the recent “retirement” of James Murphy, known as LCD Soundsystem. Murphy wants to move on, work on other projects and be free from fame. In fairness, it does seem that LCD Soundsystem has blown up from being a simple dance/rave-type artists, to a legit, “Indie” star. While “hugeness” is all relative, Murphy appears to be on a path to wider exposure. Though personally, after listening to “Drunk Girls” off of his recent This is Happening album, he seems a Damon Albran lite in this rehash of Blur’s “Boys and Girls”. But that’s me, I’m a prick.

But I am, as this concept stirs in my head, drawn to this announcement. What’s the point really? Why should anyone care? After all, LCD Soundsystem is just a moniker for one guy who isn’t going to stop making music. Something about this feels really disingenuous. And let’s face it, it will not be the last time LCD Soundsystem ever plays, ever. Eventually, Mr. Murphy will get the bug again to play those songs, to make new records, and to revisit that music. It’s inevitable. If modern rock and roll has shown us anything it’s that the musicians, maybe even more than the fans, can not let go of the music.

I recently watched Loud.Quiet.Loud the documentary about the first round of Pixies reunions from 2004. What was clear in that documentary was that four people, who really made great art, could no longer get along like friends. Which, you know what, is necessary to make music with other people. It made me sad, Kim traveling alone, drummer David Lovering falling apart, Joey Santiago quickly distancing himself from the downfall. Sure, it’s edited video, but in the 7 years since, the band has actually existed longer now then its original incarnation. Is it a money grab? Is it the inability to let go of the past? Is it because they love the songs? It’s hard to say, but even the Pixies, who had a horrible break-up reconvened for one, last, extended, never-ending, go around. Mr. Murphy is breaking up with a name by means of public grandstanding. I’m being a prick again, but it just seems, I don’t know, idiotic.

Travis Morrison, former frontman from The Dismemberment Plan and solo artist also “retired” from music a few years ago. There wasn’t a press release or a great number of interviews and, as it turns out, he’s making new music again. I don’t mean the Dismemberment Plan reunion either. Though lets look at that real quick. That was a break-up of exhaustion, the members remained friends for the following years and have, under unusual circumstances have reunited. Travis Morrison retired himself as a solo artist. In a sense, he has stayed true to that. I have no doubt that there will never be a Travis Morrison tour to the same length and degree of his past. But, he never stopped making music. Musicians, artists, creators, they can not stop creating. I also suspect that that Travis was looking to bookend a part of his life and step away from a unique legacy of jubilant praise and unrestrained mudslinging. I think he has succeeded.

Murphy isn’t stopping. The interview I read suggests a desire to keep making music. But this isn’t a retirement, this is a break with two desired results. One is to work with other people, take on new projects and challenge himself I am sure.  This speaks to the other goal, which is to reevaluate. Surely LCD’s growing public profile is cause for pause, and probably rightly so. But this whole retirement, final show, battling with scalpers (I am in full support of this aspect, FYI) is the sign of a person not leaving for a gated community home in Florida. This is a guy making his next move. But one day, he’s gonna make a move to come back.

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2 thoughts on “The Art of Retirement in a Modern Rock Age: On LCD Soundsystem

  1. I agree. I saw his interview on the Colbert Report (and had never heard of him otherwise) and the whole thing struck me as disingenuous. I assumed he was a part of some group and so it was significant that he was leaving it. Seeing now that it’s just one guy breaking up with his self made brand is silly.

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