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Track Review: LCD Soundsystem, “Big Ideas”

March 16, 2008

James Murphy, the mastermind behind dance/punk/electronic outfit LCD Soundsystem, racks up another score with LCD’s new track, “Big Ideas.” The song was written for the soundtrack of the upcoming film 21, a story about a gang of genius college kids who scheme to cheat a Vegas casino out of millions. “Big Ideas”’s frantic, thrumming pace and stylishly suspenseful vibe makes it an ideal match for a caper movie of any kind – in fact, it might even be a better fit for a heist film or a James Bond installment than a flick about a mere card swindle, albeit a high-stakes one.

In the style of LCD Soundsystem’s classic dance numbers, “Big Ideas” gathers momentum as it continually adds layers of sound and beats. The track builds gradually from an insistent drum beat/bass groove into the ‘60s swing of a secret-agent guitar riff, then opens into an unexpectedly Beatles-esque swell of “ah”s before tightening back up into a sexy driving rhythm overlaid with a menacing, staccato vocal, courtesy of Murphy in the “Bowie in Berlin” mode that he perfected on LCD’s 2007 album Sound of Silver.

If this sounds like an awful lot of name-dropping, it’s because “Big Ideas,” like most of LCD Soundsystem’s catalog, invites comparisons by wearing its influences on its sleeve. Of course, there’s a difference between starting with the seed of a musical inspiration and cultivating it into something new that stands on its own (as LCD did with New Order or with Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” on Sound of Silver’s “All My Friends” and “Get Innocuous!”), and on the other hand merely arranging a series of obvious influences into a pastiche of sounds like a musical Who’s Who.

Generally, Murphy’s creativity and sonic adventurousness keeps LCD Soundsystem on the safe side of this line, but “Big Ideas” shows signs of leaning slightly into derivative territory. Of course, this could be due to the demands of the genre – just how dazzlingly original can a movie soundtrack be before it stops being background music and commands attention away from the on-screen action? And in any event, playing “Where’s Waldo” with “Big Ideas”’s musical forebears is more of an intellectual exercise than a genuine knock against LCD’s new track. The bottom line is that “Big Ideas” is fun to listen to, sonically exciting if not groundbreaking, and for a movie about a bunch of smart kids ripping off a Vegas casino, it fits the bill to perfection.

Check it out for yourself at LCD Soundsystem’s MySpace.

(Ellen Heddendorf)

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