LCD Soundsystem's second album opens with a rickety drum-machine clearly intended to recall "Losing My Edge," James Murphy's breakout hit. It's a typically clever, self-deprecating gag, but the punchline works. Sound of Silver is miles beyond his debut — it's fuller, richer, more daring and more confident, a stew of brittle electro, supple funk-punk and endearingly loose indie rock. John Cale's chugging pianos fuel "All My Friends," and you can hear trace elements of Detroit techno and Chicago house in the drum-machine programming and growling synthesizers. Brian Eno's influence on the production is fleetingly audible, but far less than it would be on follow-up, This Is Happening.
The anxiety of influence is a major theme in Murphy's work, but on Silver he seems driven more by the fear that LCD might be associated too closely with any one style or idea. So the cheeky "Get Innocuous!" evolves from the spindly "Losing My Edge" groove into sad psychedelic disco. "Time to Get Away" employs an understated funk jam to underscore one of Murphy's meditations on the dysfunctional nature of human relationships; "North American Scum" is gonzo dance-punk with a typically conflicted message. Every song, really, has something going for it; even the closer, "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down." As a waltz and as a vocal performance, it's a joke, but the sentiment transformed Murphy into hipster culture's moral center — the reluctant voice of a generation that knew only that it had lost its bearings.
But it's two songs, really, that make Sound of Silver so remarkable. "Someone Great" rides a lithe, electric cadence — blippy synthesizers and seasick see-sawing that account for some of the loveliest sounds Murphy has ever coaxed out of his machines. Its lyrics are oblique: "You're smaller than my wife imagined/ Surprised you were human." Is it a song about romantic love? The passing of one's parents?
"All My Friends" is less ambiguous, with its monotone piano chug beating out a bright, yearning figure over and over and over. Murphy's strength isn't in the grace of his couplets. They can be clunky ("It comes apart/ The way it does in bad films"), but at their best, they have a brute force: "You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan/ And the next five years trying to be with your friends again." In its specifics, it's a rocker's meditation on the perils of fame and the trials of the road. But the song's bittersweet sense of loss — and, if we're lucky, redemption — is universal.