Maybe it's a function of getting older, maybe it's because This Is Happening was partially recorded in sunny Los Angeles, but it appears that James Murphy has lost some of his affinity for the dancefloor. That's not to say that the third—and supposedly final—LCD Soundsystem album doesn't have its uptempo moments or occasionally pilfer from disco's rich sound palette. But it's telling that opener "Dance Yrself Clean" trundles along for more than three minutes before a kick drum is added to the mix; even then, it's not exactly a dance cut. DFA diehards will enjoy the futuristic robo-funk of "One Touch," while the stripped-down post-punk disco and witty lyricism of "Pow Pow" recalls "Losing My Edge," LCD's first single from 2002.
Yet the best moments on This Is Happening come when Murphy gets pensive and dives back into the emotive well that made 2007's Sound of Silver such a stellar album. The new record doesn't quite live up to its predecessor, but its middle third is especially strong—"All I Want" finds a melancholy Murphy repeating "All I want is your pity" over soaring melodies and Strokes-like guitars, "Change" is wistful electronic pop with synths reminiscent of Gary Numan, and album standout "Hit" is a nine-minute opus that transitions from twee synths to midtempo new-wave pop, complete with a guitar riff borrowed from The Cars. First single "Drunk Girls" also leans heavily on guitars, but no amount of Murphy's clever wordplay can alter the fact that the song is borderline annoying. Much better is "Somebody's Calling Me," a slow dirge that updates Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing," and "What You Need," whose sparkling keys and agogo bell percussion cap the album in fine fashion.