Saturday, 27 August 2011

31 Songs (A Scottish Fiction Rip Off...) - Song 2

Continuing on my bold treck through songs which have left an imprint on my life in some shape or form.

Song 2

LCD Soundsystem - 'All My Friends'

No not 'Song 2' by Blur, but song number 2 in my list. Sometimes songs come along which challenge how you percieve music, and rip up your preconcieved notions of tastes and genres. Back in 2005, I had heard the song 'Daft Punk Is Playing At My House' and had nodded along to the track's beat. Here's my confession though, other than enjoying the track, it made little impact on me. In 2005 I was very much still listening to what I now term 'chart rock' and a small smattering of indie music. Now I'm not going to apologise for that, much of what I liked then I still enjoy today, even if it isn't the most creative or original music. But if I name drop bands like Hard-Fi, Kaiser Chiefs and Razorlight then you can see what my past self was up against.

My musical tastes have always flexed and changed. When I was younger, I was heavily into hip-hop and rap, something I'll touch on later in my 31 songs journey. Hitting my teens I embraced forty years of rock history, delving into the back catalouges of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, and so on. And in my late teens I had settled on the kind of bands listed above.

Released in May 2007, LCD Soundsystem's 'All My Friends' was a revelation. I first discovered the song through another favourite band of my at the time, Franz Ferdinand, who had recorded a cover. Listening to that intrigued me to investigate further. As mentioned at the start of this article, I knew who LCD Soundsystem were, but had never really delved into their music. You know that way when you hear a song for the first time, and are speechless? Listening to 'All My Friends' had that impact on me, much like I imagine people must have felt the first time they heard Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone'.

The song for me opened up a whole new world of music, not only existing in the present with bands such as Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem and Air, but also thirty years worth of electronica music including Kraftwerk and Daft Punk. I even revisited music I had heard and liked over the last ten years with a new vigour and appreciation, finding new things in bands such as Faithless, New Order and The Chemical Brothers. Music is like a network of roads. You can follow one particular style or genre from start to end all the way down that road, but all the way along there are cross roads, and splinter roads which take you on a completely different journey. It's part of the beauty of discovering music, and that's one of the reasons 'All My Friends' is a special song for me.

The song itself is seven minutes and thirty eight seconds of musical genius. Crafted to perfection by James Murphy, the song starts with a repeating piano note building in a crescendo. A cymbal crash, then another thirty seconds later. Quietly at first the snare drum sneaks in, and coaxes the rest of the drum kit to join in. This is as simple as the music gets throughout the rest of the song, proving that sometimes, less can be more. And those who accuse the song of being monotonous can quite frankly fuck off. The rhythm peaks and dips, ebbs and flows, and works in a way I never thought I could appreciate.

Lyrically the song strikes a chord with me so deeply that it's scary. As with all songs, the meaning can be interpreted differently by different people, it can be skewed and it can be argued over. Whilst all this is true, I think ultimately 'All My Friends' is a song about the transistion from youth to adulthood. Looking back on decisions you made when you were younger with the hindsight of experience. Some people have commented that it refers to the rock and roll lifestyle, which probably has some truth given Murphy's own lifestyle, but I do think it transcends that, and relates to anyone who has reached a turning point in their life, where they need to grow up.

Some lines in the song sound as if they've been picked out of my brain. "You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan, and the next five years trying to be with your friends again." At age twenty, I became a father. It took a lot of adjustment, a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of effort to try and 'get with the plan'. Throughout that time, and even still now, I would often try to cling back to the freedom I had, and try and 'be with my friends again'.

The other line which I particuarly love is, "It comes apart, the way it does in bad films. Except in parts, when the morals kick in." To me, this represents almost everyones transistion from one lifestyle to another. What you are trying to do, the new way of living, does come apart. You can't help but hark back to what you used to have, and quite selfishly at times almost wish you still had that. And there are times when that wishing gets taken too far. Maybe you go out and get irresponsibly drunk, maybe you have an argument. But the key part is the second line. Because ultimately, at least for me and most people, the morals do kick in. And that's what gets you through. Because you know what the right thing to do is.

I love how I can relate my own life story to this song. I've felt lost at the prospect of seeing my friends out enjoying themselves when I can't. I've felt jealous, bitter and resented the situation. And I've then subsequently felt guilty about the above. But despite everything next line is exactly how I feel, "I wouldn't trade one stupid decision, for another five years of life." Now let me clarify that I don't think having kids was a 'stupid decision', but the point I'm making is that despite it being something which changed my life completely, I wouldn't change it for 'another five years of [carefree] life'.

One of the real redeeming features about 'All My Friends' is despite it being writing by James Murphy, presumably about his thoughts and experiences on the subject, everyone can relate it to their own life. Because everyone will have gone through something similar. At some stage in everyone's life, they have the realisation that their life has changed, possibly their friends have changed, but something somewhere will let them relate to this song. Go on, listen to it. Really listen to it. Let me know how you get on.

Official Video Version

Full Length Album Version

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