As half of the production duo DFA, James Murphy — who, for all intents and purposes, is LCD Soundsystem — made his name as a behind-the-board guru for disco-punk artists like the Rapture. His debut, self-titled album, out earlier this year on DFA/Capitol, was a hodgepodge affair — a glance of techno, a punk song, a slow rocker, but nothing to tie the whole thing together. But live, Murphy’s everyman charisma and his band’s unmistakable energy propel the songs above most dance-punk mush and compel his adoring audience to move from foot-tapping to full-on booty-shaking.
His sense of humor helps, too. Early in the night, he decided the one band member he’d introduce was keyboardist Nancy Whang; after every song, he’d reintroduce her, leading to chants of “Nancy, Nancy” before the encore.
“Daft Punk Is Playing in My House,” the audacious track that opens the album, was introduced as “New York, I Love You, but You’re Bringing Me Down,” a one-liner that had nothing at all to do with the track.
Like Moby just before “Play” broke through in the late ’90s, Murphy has found a way to bring the vibe of electronic music to the stage while giving it a little rock attitude. It’s just what he needs to bring his songs together and make what sounds like a mishmash on record into something digestible and delicious.
Perhaps opener MIA could learn something from Murphy. Aping her much-hyped performances at Coachella and SXSW, the Sri Lankan rapper busts her dancehall-influenced rhymes over backing tracks from a DJ, giving her uniquely breathy style not much room to move. With a band, it could explode; without one, it just sounds dull.