Who says old guys can’t dance? Or, more appropriately, who says aging dance rock pioneers can’t deliver the goods in their mid-forties? Not anyone who has heard the latest offerings by LCD Soundsystem and Jamiroquai, that’s for sure.While the heyday of both of these dance floor dinosaurs might be the late 90's (Jamiroquai), or at least a decade ago (LCD), both acts have put out perhaps their strongest sets of music in 2017.
LCD leader James Murphy, who broke the band up following their legendary 2012 tour, seems to have a lot to get off his chest, and on the new album American Dream he comes out with guns blazing. On "Tonite", Murphy sings:
Everybody’s singing the same song
It goes “tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight”
I never realized these artists thought so much about dying
But the truth be told we all have the same end
Could make you cry, cry, cry, cry
But I’m telling you
This is the best news you’re getting all week
But for all the lyrical angst (“The old guys are frightened and frightening to behold; the kids come out fighting, and doing what they’re told”, he sings in “Call The Police”), the album rocks decisively (Murphy was rumored to have been invited by Bowie to produce his final album, but quit after one day, feeling the weight was just too much to bear). And for fans of “Sound of Silver”, their 2008 masterpiece, the Eno-Talking Heads influence is still there. For a guy who started his career in 2002 with a single entitled “Losing My Edge”, Murphy still seems to have salvaged much of his. Murphy still has plenty to say, and the world needs his voice, and his band’s rhythms more than ever in 2017.
For those folks who care less about lyrical heft, and prefer to simply don their disco apparel and just GET DOWN, Jamiroquai’s Automaton might be just what the Doctor ordered. The Disco Funk kings of the 90’s, led by the the never-to-be-denied Jay K, have delivered one of the slickest, most urgent records of the year, and perhaps their whole career. Unlike Murphy & Co., these brits never “retired”. They just take longer between albums these days (their previous release, “Rock Dust Light Star” having come out in 2010). But there is no dust on these grooves, and when Jay sings “Gonna be free tonight” on the album's opener, “Shake It On”, he offers the ecstatic if temporary, promise of disco liberation, with Barry White-like strings that coax the listener out of their seats and onto the floor. Right out the gate, the party is on. “Superfresh” steps it up a notch, delivering a peak hour banger that no sane person could refuse to move their limbs to: “I’m master blasting in the streets of gold; I wanna do this 'til we both get old”, Jay sings in his best Gibb brothers falsetto, offering the promise of both ecstasy and oblivion to his legion of adoring fans.
But despite the party vibe, the album isn't without its dark undercurrents:
And in the jungles of America
Another sheriff with a lone star
Can't seem to remember I'm just a child
Man, the west is getting so wild,
sings Jay in ”Dr. Buzz”. And indeed it is. But while the world may be going to hell in a hand basket, the dance music scene is doing quite alright, thank you very much, in no small part due to two veteran funkateers named James and Jay (hey, I haven’t even mentioned Nile Rogers yet-- but that’s another blog).