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LCD Soundsystem’s Latest Single Takes Their Sound Back to the Beginning

“Tonite” is James Murphy and Co. at their cheeky, self-referential best

Splendour In The Grass 2017 - Byron Bay Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

On Wednesday, LCD Soundsystem released “Tonite,” the third single from their upcoming album, American Dream, due September 1.

Unlike the first two tracks, which the group released in May, “Tonite” sounds more like a callback to the sardonic dance tracks that James Murphy made his name on than it does a stadium-filling epic. The band’s early work was self-reflective and cheeky, even when it tried to get fans moving. “Call the Police” is a slow-building live-show anthem, and “American Dream” could be the soundtrack to a postapocalyptic prom night. Both still possess the standard synth riffs and run time we’ve come to expect from an LCD track — closer to eight minutes than four — but are still accessible enough to play on Saturday Night Live.

“Tonite” likely won’t find time on the airwaves, but the track’s consistent bass line and “Yeah (Crass Version)” sound are distinctly DFA — the record label Murphy cofounded in the early aughts.

The song, which was unveiled during LCD’s five-night residency at Brooklyn Steel this spring, is being hailed as a success. Murphy is as self-aware now as he was 12 years ago on “Losing My Edge.” “Everybody’s singing the same song,” the song opens. “It goes ‘tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight’ / I never realized these artists thought so much about dying.” Later, he deadpans that he sounds like his mom.

It’s no secret that Murphy has been chasing mainstream success. In 2007, on his record label’s message board, he asked each of the 60,000 fans who bought the group’s debut album to preorder the follow-up so it could open at no. 1. “We are literally just asking people point blank to buy my record because I want a good chart position,” Murphy wrote. (It peaked at 46.) That unfulfilled motivation is part of why LCD re-formed after taking a lengthy break following their farewell show, during which time Murphy opened a wine bar, developed gout, and produced an Arcade Fire album. The hiatus didn’t really start until the aptly titled documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits was finished in 2012, and it ended when the band released a new song on Christmas Eve 2015. The boredom Murphy displayed on his first day of retirement is the same one that brought him out.

It’s likely that “Tonite” mimics the album’s tone better than “American Dream” or “Call the Police” did. In an interview with Tom Scharpling, Murphy called the record “heavier,” with “darker songs,” and “Tonite” fits that description.

“And all the hits are saying the same thing,” Murphy sings. “There’s only tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight / And life is finite / But shit, it feels like forever.”

After the music stops, and the screen goes dark, Murphy squeezes in one last confession.

It’s gonna have to be good enough. I can’t do this anymore. My brain won’t work.”