Take Me Home

I write about music because it is easy. At a time when writing is hard, painful and exactly like bleeding, it is easy to write about music. It's a main road into your emotional center, and that is where you find the words in bulk. They may not be sharp, or accurate, or in any way indicative of expertise, but it's easy. This blog is, after all, not a place for shining and insightful music journalism, but a place for me to type.

Let me tell you a little about "All I Want" by LCD Soundsystem and what it does for me.

First, let me explain that James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem is an amazingly talented lyricist when he wants to be. He can write some powerful, moving songs when he wants to. His last album, "Sound of Silver," produced two stellar songs about friendship and loss in the form of "All My Friends" and "Someone Great." But generally, LCD Soundsystem is a dance-punk project with weird, catchy beats and funny, almost non-sequiter lines. They are apparently just improvised lines, repeated ad nauseum, becoming part of the beat itself. So there isn't generally a lot of story telling, except in a rare few songs like this one.

It starts off with a drum beat to establish the tempo, and the rumblings of some bass in the background, and you feel like you're in for something catchy and rhythmic. But a feedback comes sweeping through, like a pitcher's wind-up where the release is the greatest sound a guitar can make. This is the heart of the song: An amazing, gritty, side-winding, overdrive electric guitar. The song content is centered on need, there's an obvious beat to it, but the guitar is like that isolated moment in an 80s rock ballad where it reaches the emotional climax. It sounds the way you should feel. It's goddamn amazing.

Something about the way it is played, over and over, in this simple but pure scale with tiny variations every now and then make it a melody that cuts to the heart. But make no mistake, it's a sick beat, just one that doesn't emphasize stops and quick measures. It is the opposite of a great hip-hop beat, which fills you with energy, bobs your head, and makes you want to dance or fuck. This is an entirely different kind of primal rhythm, one that makes you want to smash a guitar and drive into the sun. And it's all because of the sound and chords and repetition.

The lyrics are about the wonders of the soul:

Wait for the day you come home from the lonely park

Look for the girl who has put up with all of your shit

You've never needed anyone for so long

The way Murphy sings here, not with an exaggerated cartoon exclamation, but with a stylish breathiness adds another layer of emotion to the pile.

You look in the bed you've been gone for too long

to put in the time but it's too late to make it strong

You would think it was a song about relationships failed or dying, but Murphy seems to acknowledge this on a meta level with the chorus:

And all I want is your pity

And all I want is your bitter tears

Yeah, all I want is your pity

At least all I want are your bitter tears

Is it mocking? Is it a rebuke of cathartic songs that orbit around trouble? Or is it a sort of self-loathing, the kind that acknowledges the insecurity of writing a song like this as a safety against criticism? It's hard to say, but it penetrates on both levels. It creates an intense tension  in the lyrics, between arrogance and hurt, that is relate-able and appealing to anyone who has ever vented in a public medium. There is a therapy to our expression, even if it is arrogant to think it is worth the eyes and ears of other people.

If I may something about the bass: It is perfect. It fills the role of being felt, but not heard, as seamless a groove as any bass line I've heard in a while. Whereas the guitar is the star, but repetitive and devoid of any complexity, the bass underlines it with a dancing, bouncing, up-and-down riff. You can't hear it unless you are looking for it, but you certainly feel it. It's invisible weight.

In the next verse, Murphy sings with an added urgency, and were it not for the rocking guitar and melodic bleeps & bloops, it would be easy to imagine him crooning in a suit before a red velvet curtain.

Wake with a start, and the dog and girl are gone

So you pack up the things and head to the lame unknown

You never needed anything for so long.

It's a fascinating refusal of romanticizing the pain of being human, because it is predictable, it is common, it is not as amazing and world-shaking as we make it out to be. But it indulges in it all the same, because what else can you do? "The lame unknown," he sings. Where other bands would express the fear of the unknown, or the wonder of the unknown, Murphy makes it lame. It is anti-navel gazing, but tremendously powerful.

You never needed anything for so long. That line is a lyrical hook, the right combination of words that would be a good haymaker in a prose poem. It packs with it images of fierce independence giving way to softness, of hardened men learning the meaning of weakness.

By now, a strange keyboard synth sound has joined the wall of sound, which is a relentless, spiraling thing. It plays with the nonstop bells and whistles of a Las Vegas slot machine, with no discernable melody, but a lot of dancing up and down a scale. It gets crazy with distortion, until it sounds like a dolphin being strangled. I know that sounds ugly, but as it evolves in the song, it heightens the urgency with such an uncomfortable, almost ugly noise. The echoes are intense, and their usage is imporant. It is the sound of not just being alone, but of being isolated in large, vacant chambers.

From now on, I'm someone different

'Cause it's not fun to be predictably lame

From now on, there's true indifference

Because I just want what I want

Because all this hurt over love and loss is lame, it seems to say, because it is predictable and overwrought. You just want what you want. You do not carry the weight of the world, your life is not changed, you are not the center of the pain vortex. Is he trying to convince himself to no longer want pity? Or is he resigning to these romantic inclinations and finding peace? There's a hope for answers, but all he offers is one simple direction.

Take me home

Take me home

Take me home

Take me home

It is more than just a wall by now, it is a fortress of sound. Murphy's voice soars over the chaos, exacerbated by the insane, never-ending keyboard solo. He holds "home," like any good vocalist, and stretches the limits of the melody in all directions. Slowly, things start to fade out. The divine guitar riff turns the volume down, allowing the bass to take center stage, while the drums just drop out.

It's just a choir doing an acapella beat for a couple more measures, Murphy wailing on the word "Home" in the distant mashed-up background, and the truly fucked up keyboard going over the limit in distortion and feedback. By now the keyboard sounds like it has been through a car wreck, and it may hurt at higher pitches, but you wouldn't want it any way else.

There's a piano flare, an unassuming "okay" from some voice in the studio, and the song is over. It's a long beat-based song at seven minutes, which is a useful tactic to make it feel like a journey. If this is intended to be the last of LCD Soundsystem, then I'm glad we got another heart-hitter, something in the same lineage as "All My Friends" and "Someone Great." It's the trip I'm always looking to take.