LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great
tylus Magazine's Seconds column examines those magic moments that arise when listening to a piece of music that strikes that special chord inside. That pounding drum intro; a clanging guitar built-up to an anthemic chorus; that strange glitchy noise you've never quite been able to figure out; that first kiss or heartbreak; a well-turned rhyme that reminds you of something in your own past so much, it seems like it was written for you—all of those little things that make people love music. Every music lover has a collection of these Seconds in his or her head; these are some of ours.
“Someone Great” imagines both the loss and the hope of again in the span of six and a half minutes. Life’s break in the dreamtime. Though it starts with a gurgle of tone and a slow ruffling beat, James Murphy and co. get those trance vibes working in no time. After all, “Someone Great” is really just a vision of progress in the time it takes you to breathe and reassess. As such, it’s the perfect illustration of how much he’s grown as a songwriter since those early LCD singles. I remember reading how DFA’s manager Jonathan Galkin said he cried when he first heard “Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up.” If that’s true, he couldn’t have made it halfway though “Someone Great” without calling up all his old girlfriends.
For a writer known for his acerbic sense of the droll, “Someone Great” shows Murphy almost uncomfortably bare: talking about love, of all things. He nails the nagging what-else of leaving someone behind and finding a new someone. Importantly, he gets how much that old thing can hang with you. Even when you’re happy again. So you have tinkling bells and Murphy as introspective and vulnerable as he’s been since “Never As Tired.”
But it’s the economy of motion that makes “Someone Great” so shattering. The song seems to take on volume and scope as it ticks past. Murphy’s refrain, “and it keeps coming ‘til the day it stops” is held heavy in its thick vibrato. What appears in that slow crescendo is what makes you reach out to him though. Murphy creates a scene so much more true to smell and sight than your average museum piece. But he uses that sense—of a space once lived in now filled out with stiff clothes nobody ever really wore and furniture placed in a way nobody could see each other—to set the scene. And it’s those quiet things that hurt the most. “I miss the way we used to argue.” The weather’s too nice now to think of you but I do. I have to get back to work. And work is still thinking of you.
But this is Seconds. Those we’re concerned with are at 5:02 and counting on “Someone Great.” It’s when Murphy goes nostalgic to show how much his past means to him. He mentions his wife, in passing. He tells you he’s moved on. Thus, lyrically, “Someone Great” may be too triumphant to be the breakup song it’s asking to be; but anyone who hears it has trouble getting past the way it champions melancholy. Call it glass-half-full if you will, the silver-lining, but it’s a far more tricky take on fulfillment than that. I mean, just after he mentions a wife, Murphy gives a tribute to old love? But that’s the mark. After spending five minutes steadying himself to it, he admits just how close you can still feel to those you’d put aside. He reminds us the past is always only barely passed: “When someone great is gone; when someone great is gone.” And, suddenly, everything about Murphy’s tale straightens itself out a bit. It’s an ode and a rebuke at once—to both old love and new—and that duality makes it one of the more complex love songs of the decade.
Because it’s not about now. He’s married and settled. But this tribute is not to her. Sometimes love has absolutely nothing to do with who’s beside you. It’s a shared consciousness. It’s reverb and mirror—comparative sensations and midnight callback. It’s reserved for adults, but it comes from stupid youth and every time you thought you didn’t want it back. With “Someone Great,” Murphy’s mastered the childhood dreamspace, which is what the entire experience of first love is anyway. He questions the things we have with us when we sleep. He rethinks the false way we go back to them. But we go back. Knowing this, just as he admits to an old fondness and how he’s ‘saved for the moment,’ the song peels back and fades on a ripple. And there we are, back right where “Someone Great” began. But with a full six and a half minutes of new pasts again, and one supple groove to boot.