That’s How It Starts/We Get Talked Up By The Press
When compiling today’s Summer Songs poll, one track we very nearly included on the list was LCD Soundsystem’s hipster smash “All My Friends,” the second single from Sound of Silver. After all, we didn’t want to put just one indie-friendly record on a list choked with pop and invite the more discerning of our readers to pool their voting and stack the deck for one song. (We’re defining a “hipster smash,” by the way, as a song much-talked-about in a 20-block radius of lower Manhattan and upper Brooklyn and completely unknown to 98.7426% of the United States of America.) There’s no question that “All My Friends” — in both its original incarnation and its LCD-sanctioned covers by Franz Ferdinand and John Cale — is one of the year’s best songs. But it can’t really be called a “summer jam,” unless you’re the sort of person whose pale body won’t see sunlight until Coney Island’s art-damaged Siren Festival two weeks from now. And its cultural impact is easy for certain folks to overstate. Which is exactly what the well-intentioned Hua Hsu does in his newest piece for Slate praising “All My Friends.” I for one have nothing against Hsu — less than nothing. He’s a good writer whose interests span both termite art and mass-culture artifacts; he was responsible for Slate’s immortal, oft-cited 2005 piece “Notes on ‘Humps’: A Song So Awful It Hurts the Mind,” which in deconstructing the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” declared “a song can be so bad as to veer toward evil.” No argument here! Nonetheless, reading his “All My Friends” piece — in which he keenly deconstructs the song’s winning approach to post-rave-culture nostalgia — Maura and I are reminded of our many acquaintances who think that just because their eight friends are sick of talking about a song or a band or an album, it must be ubiquitous. Too often in the piece, you stumble across something like this:
“All My Friends,” the brilliant and deeply nostalgic new single from LCD Soundsystem … bears all the traits of a ubiquitous dance-club hit, [but] this only half-explains its massive popularity.
“Massive”? Last we checked, “All My Friends” wasn’t charting anywhere. And we’re not being nasty or unfair and only counting the pop charts: it’s not on any small-radio or niche-sales chart, either, not the Modern Rock, Dance Club Play or Dance Singles charts, nor is it even on Billboard’s “Tastemakers” chart, which rewards the kind of record that sells well at Other Music or Newbury Comics. It’s not charting anywhere on iTunes best-sellers’ lists, either — but here’s where the plot thickens. “All My Friends” is not available for sale as an a la carte download at all. On iTunes, it’s an “Album Only” download as part of Sound of Silver, and then only in its original, seven-minute incarnation. Murphy’s four-minute “radio edit” of the song is the basis for the song’s music video, and it can be acquired via gray-market means on certain file-sharing sites. But not on iTunes. So to be fair to Hsu, there’s no real way of knowing how “massive” “All My Friends” is, because Murphy hasn’t made it trackable. It’s possible that the album version of “All My Friends” isn’t on sale for 99 cents because of royalties: numerous songs over seven minutes are restricted on iTunes because of arcane publishing rules that price long songs at a higher rate. (Voila! The explanation for jam bands.) But you’d think Murphy would make the four-minute version more widely available and try to garner at least a medium-size hit. Then again, this is a guy who was hoping to convince all 60,000 of his debut-album buyers to give him a top 10 debut in March by buying Silver its first week; maybe he’s still hoping to keep the album pumped up. Whatever Murphy and Hsu are thinking, we’d like some evidence that this lovable song is getting played somewhere besides your white earbuds. Yesterday’s Slate writeup might vault LCD Soundsystem into the realm of yuppie-indie Starbucks culture. But any Idolator reader who hears “All My Friends” booming from a car besides their own — even a Prius — should drop us a line. We’ll take back everything we said here. The melancholy greatness of the LCD Soundsystem hit. [Slate] LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends [YouTube]