Some bands, such as The Beatles, The Police and The Replacements, have tension between the group members, leading to their demise. Fans wonder what music the bands could have made if they stuck it out just a bit longer. LCD Soundsystem, on the other hand, seem to be a band with nothing left to say.
LCD mastermind James Murphy decided to end the band on his own terms, telling Pitchfork in 2010 that he wanted to "hang out. Produce some other bands, make some things with other people." Now, it's been three years since the band broke up, with the group members pursuing other projects, most notably Murphy's recent production on Arcade Fire's excellent Reflektor as well as launching a petition to score the NYC subway system and co-developing a soundsystem known as Despacio.
Three years after their breakup, their 2011 Madison Square Garden farewell concert is being released as a 5 LP box set titled The Long Goodbye, due out April 19th. To promote the new album, the Brooklyn venue / record store Rough Trade now has an interactive exhibit of the same name that will run through May 7th.
The installation takes up a small room in the store where five turntables each preview a different disc of the album, which can be heard with headphones. Their 2012 documentary of the same concert, Shut Up and Play the Hits, plays a monitor above the turntables while also projected on another wall where you can sit on a couch to watch. The walls are covered with photos taken by the band’s official photographer, Ruvan Wijesooriya. The photos are up for grabs, with a notecard in the middle of the wall that says "please take one." Though it may interest some to see archival shots of the band back stage at a concert or recording an album in the studio, the fact that they are crudely posted to the wall gives the room an ominous atmosphere.
It’s as if the band has died and their parents opened their bedroom to the public so people can pay their respects. There’s a small table in the far left corner of the room with a portrait of the band and flowers that are stuffed in empty beer bottles as more photos are shown through a slideshow on an iPad. Anybody can write a message on a notecard and post it on the wall behind it, and most of those messages say "R.I.P."
Murphy has been working on mixing both the film and the album since the performance, telling Rolling Stone:
"I had to do Shut Up and Play the Hits, and dealing with the live footage, and mixing all the sound for the live footage, and then I had to do the whole four-hour concert and edit all that footage and mix everything. It was great, but also, like, shitting hell. It really just refused to die."
Now that the album is getting ready to be released, Murphy can finally lay the band to rest.
I have visited the room two times since it opened. The first time I visited the exhibit, there was only one other person in the room with me. "I feel comfortable," he said, "like I can sit here for hours. I can see calling some friends, getting some drinks and throwing a vinyl on." He just purchased Childish Gambino's Because the Internet and wanted to use the turntable in the exhibition to listen to it. He didn't come to the room to say goodbye because he wasn't even aware of them when they were still together.
After being told he couldn't play his record, the man left and I was in the room alone. LCD Soundsystem has always been a band that brought people together, but it felt the opposite being alone in a room with a disco ball above me as "All My Friends" was playing. I decided to come back when there were more people on Saturday. Yet again, there was nobody there. However, there were traces of people with more notes to the band up on the wall. All of the posted photos of Murphy were gone, leaving the ones of other band members untouched.
I went over to the turntables, put on headphones and dropped the needle onto the record. "I was there," I heard Murphy exclaim on "Losing My Edge." The track has Murphy playing a pretentious hipster who brags about knowing obscure bands before anybody else. "I was there in 1968," he sings, "I was there at the first Can show in Cologne." After the song, I took another look around the room. On the wall were a few more notes, with one reading, "...BUT I WAS THERE. No, seriously I was front row at the MSG show." It seems that their breakup has given their concerts more importance, giving people the chance to say that they were there to witness the band perform, something that nobody may ever be able to say again. By ending the band and spending over three years to say goodbye, LCD has created a sense of longing and perhaps even envy as new generation of fans will listen to The Long Goodbye and wish they could say, "I was there," too.
Rough Trade will have a listening party of the album on April 16th, which you can RSVP for at the Rough Trade website. For anyone who wants to be, as the sign outside reads, immersed in the sounds, sights and emotion of the band's historic farewell performance, the listening party may be your last chance.