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Remembering When LCD Soundsystem Got Nike To Pay for a 45-Minute Song

On February 2, 2016

by Ian Benson 31PyMh11KAL

2006 is forever ago. You could have a half-sensible conversation with someone born that year. You can watch Borat and remember when it was hailed as the future of comedy before it was quoted into misery. Or, you can grab the half-forgotten LCD Soundsystem and Nike collaboration 45:33, a daunting 45:58 (despite the title) track that Murphy specifically calibrated over the course of several jogs to create the perfect intervals to push and cool down. Except that was a lie.

The truth of the matter is that Murphy doesn’t even run. He said so himself in an interview with The Guardian about six months after the release of the album, saying:

“But as far as running to test it, I didn't even expect it to be for running. I wrote these liner notes which I find really funny but nobody seems to think they're a joke. I'm not built to run. I'm built for fighting, not running away!”

Instead, 45:33 was Murphy’s attempt to create an album long song in the vein of electronic music pioneer Manuel Göttsching’s 1984 landmark release E2-E4. (When Göttsching was shown 45:33 he critically dismissed the relation to his music and insisted that Murphy instead just made a mix of his own stuff. Never meet your heroes.) The similar album artwork stands as an obvious clue, though the benefit of hindsight exists. He had long dreamed of creating such a work but never knew where he’d find the time until Nike came with an offer that he felt provided the ideal opportunity.

The best part of Murphy’s brazen move to take the money and peddle a lie is that all the contemporary reviews bought in. There are jokes about the horrors of exercise and questions about whether this qualifies as a sell-out move by LCD Soundsystem. There are firsthand accounts of people grabbing sneakers and heading out, reporting the success of the peaks and valleys that were the hallmarks of these ‘intervals’ and how they would sync with their pace. There’s mentions of how the first words of the song are “shame on you” being repeated and how that can be viewed like Murphy disparaging those who skipped a workout. Knowing that none of that was true, it’s more fun to imagine he’s chastising those who bought into the idea that he made something to jog to.


All of this would be a fun footnote in an exemplary music career if it didn’t come out at the precise moment that Murphy was transitioning into one of America’s better songwriters, and if the album didn’t succeed as a workout mix. LCD Soundsystem are experts in songs that got bodies moving. Sometimes they were combined with lyrics that prompted self-reflection on the dance floor and existential crises during the DJ set, but there was always the push within them. Songs like “Movement” and “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” have even become hallmarks of ‘indie-workout’ mixes you can hear at ‘cool’ gyms.

And the song itself is exemplary on its own because it showcases the talent Murphy has for layering a track. Everything is constantly building towards another sound while another piece is added to the overall element. It’s dizzying to track the swell of it all. It’s no surprise that he liked this instrumental portion so much he reused it four months for Sound of Silver standout “Someone Great.” The importance of 45:33 can almost be entirely traced to that section because it perfectly illustrates the transition from the sneer of “Yr. City’s A Sucker” style LCD Soundsystem to the sentiment that would come to epitomize the band’s last album. In a later portion of the song, Murphy sings in a shifted voice “You were there with all my best friends,” a combination of the reoccurring motif of “Losing My Edge” and the central maxim of “All My Friends.”

So if Murphy got the funding to create his disco dream, what did Nike get out of this? They look like the butt of this joke but it’s important to remember that Nike has always used interesting marketing ploys, and own Converse, who would go on to build a music studio in Brooklyn. That last bit is important because if 45:33 was a blueprint for LCD Soundsystem going forward, then Nike learned from this in the setup of Converse’s “three artists, one song” series, where a seemingly arbitrary group of musicians come together to record a track released by the company. And while the results haven’t always worked, one standout is “DoYaThing,” a collaboration between Gorillaz, Andre 3000, and James Murphy. Looks like there were no hard feelings about the jogging lies—which is good because otherwise it would have robbed the world of everyone’s favorite recluse rapper going nuts for nearly 10 minutes, well earning his repeated shouting of “I’m the shit.”

In this world where LCD Soundsystem are participating in the inevitable but certainly welcome reunion, the lesson from 45:33 is to hope that Murphy once again creates a joke he later lets us in on, preferably with corporate money. We should hope he comes back this weird and even more ambitious.


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