TO CELEBRATE THE RECENT RELEASE OF OUR 33 1/3 ON LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’S SOUND OF SILVER, WE’RE PLEASED TO BRING YOU THE FIFTH AND FINAL INSTALLMENT OF LCD SOUNDSYSTEM WEEK BY AUTHOR RYAN LEAS!
Late in 2011, LCD Soundsystem released one more piece of their long goodbye: a video for their cover of Franz Ferdinand’s “Live Alone.” If you weren’t paying attention, it might’ve slipped through the cracks, but it was an appropriate bit of post-elegy elegy, another little epilogue after the big Madison Square Garden finale earlier that year. James Murphy adopts a guarded croon through the verses, the whole thing steadily making its way towards the climax, in which Murphy switches to a Bowie-esque chant singing “I want to live alone/So I’ll never be alone.” Over the course of the video, some trippy subplot interjects into what almost looks like stock footage of New York; it’s part plaintive and matter-of-fact in its depiction of Murphy’s home one more time, and then it cedes entirely to sci-fi psychedelia at the end.
There are places where Murphy pays as much attention to the visuals of LCD as he does to the music. Their trilogy of albums all have covers that, once you get to know the record, feel inextricable from them—it’s hard to picture them represented by any image other than the ones we know. The way the band stands in formation onstage, occasionally graced by a gigantic mirrorball—that has its power, too. But as far as videos go, they have some clips that are really memorable (the anarchic “Drunk Girls”) and others that are more serviceable. Aside from its weird, gorgeous conclusion, “Live Alone” initially comes off like the latter. Plenty of artists have videos depicting New York.
LCD already had a few themselves. That’s what makes “Live Alone” stick in my mind as part of that erstwhile final chapter that unfolded over the course of 2011. Back in “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House,” LCD was capturing the frenetic, twitchy energy of a New York scene that still, maybe, had some semblance of underground edge. He darted through that video like the aloof captain of the whole thing, aware he was still cool, and this was still cool, and that there was an allure to in these New York streets and party scenes. Of course, then there’s “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” which despite its specificity is the 21st century’s ultimate disenchantment ballad for looking around wherever you call home and no longer recognizing the place. That video has Murphy singing through a forlorn Kermit puppet, mostly near the water with the skyline of NYC in the backdrop. It’s an everyday view you might have from Brooklyn, but it’s also an image that establishes distance. He’s singing about all the changes in his adopted hometown, sure, but from “Daft Punk…” to “New York, I Love You…” there’s a bit of growing up that’s occurred, and while there are punchlines and bitterness mixed into the latter, it’s also, on a larger scale, a song that is told from the perspective of someone who’s getting older and processing the world shifting around them.
As visually striking of an end that “Live Alone” was, whether in always-poetic New York scenery or the rabbithole we go down in the video’s final minutes, it plays like a sad denouement when you consider it alongside other imagery in LCD’s career. Wherever we go at the end of “Live Alone,” it feels interior—we’ve said goodbye to all those New York streets and all they symbolized, and now all that’s left to do is retreat to somewhere else.