'He’s the grizzled perfectionist behind one of 2007’s finest albums...'
He’s the grizzled perfectionist behind one of 2007’s finest albums, alchemic remixer, discerning DJ and co-owner of the strenuously hip DFA label. In the last couple of months he’s completed a dream-ticket North American tour with Arcade Fire and DJed across Europe to promote his ‘FabricLive’ mix CD, along the way partying harder than any 37-year-old is advised to by their doctor. Yes, James Murphy is the hardest-working man in punk-funk… but you wouldn’t have the burly New Yorker down as much of a jogger. Which made Nike collaboration ‘45:33’ one of 2006’s oddest releases.
Snuck out as an iTunes-only download last October, this curio was commissioned by every anti-globalisation protestor’s least-favourite swoosh-logoed sportswear brand as a running aid: a single 45-minute track, supposedly designed to sync with the demands of your workout, with Murphy cast as a grouchy, cowbell-wielding Mr Motivator.
Now released on CD and vinyl for the first time, ‘45:33’ seems unlikely to inspire a rush on CoolMax vests at Niketown but is still a great piece of music, doubling as a shimmering tribute to the disco music of his adopted Manhattan home. Murphy says that the process of creating ‘45:33’ inspired a purple patch that eventually yielded ‘Sound Of Silver’, and you can hear some of that album’s ideas rolled out and road-tested here.
‘45:33’ begins with a sprinkling of sensuous Studio 54 loveliness, arguably more suited to working up a sweat in the boudoir than the gymnasium. Nevertheless, the uplifting piano riff seems designed to make you feel good about yourself for skipping the pub in favour of a spot of self-improvement – until the backing vocals start chanting “Shame on you!” Is our back-fat really that noticeable?
Time to up the tempo on the treadmill, and the next of six seamlessly-segued movements is an instrumental version of ‘Sound Of Silver’’s colossal centrepiece, ‘Someone Great’. Shorn of its elegiac lyrics, what the track loses in emotional punch it gains in frolicsome robo-pleasure and its yearning electro-pop plip-plop can’t help but trigger an almighty endorphin rush.
The first pain barrier broken, ‘45:33’ pushes on through a segment that recalls the pitch-bent Amazonian funk chaos of early LCD Soundsystem single ‘Yeah’. Murphy appears on the mic and puts his voice through an effects box that makes him sound like Marvin The Paranoid Android. “Oh, my favourite song/It reminds me of the first time I went to space”, he drones. “It was such a long journey/It took hours”. It’s the equivalent of having that creepy guy come up to you in the gym and start talking about last night’s Heroes.
So far the mid-level BPM has been forgiving but on 28 minutes it all goes ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’ mental. The tempo shifts up, the bass locks into a taut Blaxploitation soul groove, the trumpets squeal, guitars do that thing that makes them sound like a tailing helicopter and suddenly you’re on the run from moustachioed cops in taupe suits, hurdling garden fences just to stay alive even though your legs have turned to jelly. The sinister plot behind ‘45:33’ reveals itself: Murphy is trying to kill us all and replace us with an army of Death From Above-branded robots. Either that or the unfamiliar exertion is making us hallucinate in a bad way.
By this point even Paula Radcliffe would be stopping for a shit. Where’s our man to wrap us in Bacofoil and hand us a Mars bar with a Lucozade on the side? The warm-down segment, all twinkly beatless burbles, sounds like the call-waiting tone in heaven – which is appropriate, since if you’re a malnourished indie type who’s been running since the beginning you’ll probably be laid out on a stretcher bound for A&E by now. Murphy’s final trick is to fade in a heartbeat, just to fool you that you’re still functioning.
Turns out that when he blathered in the accompanying press bumph that the mix is “perfectly tailored for my run and I hope for yours as well” Murphy was deadpanning. He later revealed he doesn’t listen to music when he jogs because it’s distracting and actually prefers mixed martial arts to pounding the pavement when he wants to get in shape. Maybe his next Nike commission will be the music to listen to when an oiled-up
ex-Marine is leathering you in the ’nads.
‘45:33’ isn’t the ideal jogging companion at all. It’s too slow at the start, too fast at the end and doesn’t even come with one
of those reflective bibs that prevent you from being hit by a car when you’re running on the streets at night. We recommend pegging it around the park to the relentless techno of ‘A Bugged Out Mix By Klaxons’ for a quarter of an hour instead, and then going for a pint. But ‘45:33’ is loads of fun, a satisfying folly that’s as central to an appreciation of ‘Sound Of Silver’ as the lyric sheet.