Christmas music aside, I just want to take a moment to pump the tires of a band called LCD Soundsystem. This band formed in and around New York City at the turn of the century during a musical movement known as Post Punk Revival that also included bands such as The Strokes, The White Stripes, Interpol, MGMT and others. LCD Soundsystem achieved a fair degree of success within the confines of their genre. They are an ensemble band who are led by a poet-style troubadour named James Murphy. The songs that LCD Soundsystem are most famous for read like novels. Their most famous song is “All My Friends” *(which I wrote about here). I adore this band and admire their uncompromising ability to always produce literate, creative and memorable tracks, album after album. So, when the band announced that they were going on hiatus in 2015, a great many people were crestfallen. Their final concert at Madison Square Garden was for many in this generation their “Last Waltz”. It was recorded as a film and is an amazing example of why live music matters. It is simply incredible. If you are unfamiliar with LCD Soundsystem, I urge you to stop reading for a moment and watch the video for the song “Dance Yrself Clean” which was recorded live at their farewell concert. The energy in the crowd is something else. The first half of the song is a slow build up to a mid-song blow out so hang in through the mellow opening half. The chemistry within the band is obvious to see. The link for the song is here.
In 2016, word got out that James Murphy and friends had gathered together to record a Christmas song that Murphy had kicking around in his head for over a decade. In true LCD Soundsystem style, the song “Christmas Will Break Your Heart” is an epic composition. It is an examination of the nature of family and of our relationships within a family. More specifically, it describes how the phrase “Home for the Holidays” can be heard by others as anxiety-inducing words that cause the joy of Christmas to vaporize instantly. As a society, we are bombarded with messaging that suggests that this is the happiest, merriest time of the whole year when, in fact, for many it is the saddest and loneliest of times. “Christmas Will Break Your Heart” is about all of those families who can never enjoy that warm feeling of kinship and love because someone in their midst is struggling with addiction or mental illness. This is as sad a song as you will find, but it is also as true a song as you will find for many families. I am usually someone who champions live music over everything else, but in the case of this song, the official video is extraordinary. It is a whole novel in one song. It is a devastating commentary on the destructiveness of addiction. From a cinematic perspective, it is an award-winning masterpiece. For those of you who dread family gatherings and who have experienced the volatility of living with alcoholism and drug dependency, then this video may hit too close to home. There will be a trigger warning for a reason. There are many social workers and mental health experts who plead for people to not look away when it comes to the suffering of others. In that light, I encourage you to not look away as well. Watch the video. If it helps you to develop a greater sense of empathy for those families around you, then so much the better. But, whatever the case, know that James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem have tackled this issue with care and respect and offer up “Christmas Will Break Your Heart” as a thoughtful and considered take on the holiday season as experienced by many who are not as fortunate as many of us are to be surrounded by love.
If you believe those in the advertising world, then you would come away thinking that Christmas is all about the shiny packages sitting under your Christmas tree. If you believe the majority of musicians and Hallmark movie producers, then Christmas is all about family and love and shared times together, complete with smooches under the mistletoe. If you believe in poets like James Murphy and bands such as LCD Soundsystem, Christmas is all about love…especially about the limits of love’s reach when the object of such affection is essentially unlovable. There is no right or wrong answer to the question of what Christmas really is about. Christmas is about you and the love that resides within your heart for yourself and for others. Sometimes that love will lift you to a higher plane, but sometimes that love will break your heart and the hearts of everyone you touch. Such is Christmas.
The link to the video for the song “Christmas Will Break Your Heart” by LCD Soundsystem can be found here. **This video is based on the french movie, “Un Conte de Noel”.
***Sorry. There is no lyric video for this song but you can link to the lyrics here.
The link to the official website for LCD Soundsystem can be found here.
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