Of course James Murphy is a critics' darling. Writers love process, and between his opinionated interviews and his lyrics' music-geek in-jokes, the Brooklyn producer (with Tim Goldsworthy as The DFA) and artist (as LCD Soundsystem) is as besotted with the way things work and are received as anyone who depends on a byline for a living—so much so that it's a little surprising he didn't name this album Difficult Follow-Up.
Then again, Sound Of Silver doesn't sound especially labored—any more than the previous LCD Soundsystem releases, at least. Sly self-consciousness is a Murphy stock in trade; here, the most obvious example is "North American Scum," a funny defense of his home continent ("You see, I love this place that I've grown to know / All right, North America! / And yeah, I know you wouldn't touch us with a 10-foot pole / 'Cause we're North Americans") that sounds more than a little like Pete Shelley's classic single "Homosapien." Self-referencing is a primary tactic as well. The drum-machine-only beginning of the leadoff track, "Get Innocuous!", recalls, most likely deliberately, the top of LCD's first single, 2002's "Losing My Edge." Then it goes somewhere else entirely, in an effective bait-and-switch tactic that leads into a groove where live-drumming overlays, calm piano pulse, staccato bass, and late-'70s-Bowie vocal (and lyrics: "To string you along with pretense," anyone?) might be LCD's most tightly meshed hybrid yet.
The longer, more expansive tracks are where Sound Of Silver is at its most effective. "Someone Great" features a deadpan vocal melody reminiscent of mid-'70s Eno that receives an unexpected lift in the refrain near the end, as well as from a lovely bubble-popping synth line. "Us V Them" merges loose party funk with jittery post-punk like it was the most natural thing in the world. Sure, lots of other people have done this lately, but few do it with Murphy's flair.