More than a year after the release of american dream, LCD Soundsystem’s reunion album, comes a video for the record’s pulsating, wearily hopeful opening track, “oh baby.” Directed by Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), the video radiates a warm earnestness that complements the song’s stumbling synthline, introducing us to an older couple (Sissy Spacek and David Strathairn) in the midst of a crisis.
In time with the plucky beat, an impressionistic flurry of images overtakes the frame as Johnson quickly cuts between unintelligible scribblings of complex math problems and worn hands touching hands. What’s being written and mulled over is less important than the consonance of the track’s ephemeral tone and the sincerity of the images of a quotidian marriage near the end of its road. There’s no spoken dialogue, but Spacek and Strathairn give it their all, communicating their fears and longings in brief glimpses, long stares, and playful touches. Eventually, we learn that these two are attempting to construct some sort of teleportation machine in their garage, and to their shock, it works.
Johnson’s made a career for himself doing just this, finding a way to meld the sincere with these sorts of needlessly complicated goofy plot developments. Putting aside the contrivance of what actually transpires, the emotional core of the song and video remain wholly intact, because that’s what Johnson’s emphasizing. What matters is not so much that the machine works, but rather that the couple experiences a profound bliss from simply working together toward this common goal. The sci-fi premise, more than anything else, gives Johnson the space to explore the humdrum life of a longtime relationship and the bursts of exuberance that rekindle its fire.
The song itself is one of the best from the record, even if it errs a bit on the melancholic. James Murphy’s desperate pleas carry with them an emotional weight, and the song is, frankly, uncharacteristically romantic, with lyrics like, “You’re having a bad dream, here in my arms.” Even so, the spacey, almost dream-like production gives the track a cosmic heft that’s wonderfully captured by the video. The song’s electronic and atmospheric beats, combined with the intentionally disembodied vocals that sweep over the video turns “oh baby” into more of a movie scene and less of a music video. The video’s premise is interesting and engaging, and the song makes it all the better. As the song reaches its final crescendo, the video climaxes too with a final moment of tenderness.
Featured Image by DFA Records