Chubby Joggers of the World Unite

How Nike's bizarre union with LCD Soundsystem worked out so perfectly

LCD Soundsystem's 45:33, 45 continuous minutes of original music commissioned by Nike to accompany exercise, may be the best thing the corporation has ever done. Better than wildly inventive labor schemata, better than its tenure as whipping boy at college sociology departments nationwide. The pairing—wry, indie disco saviors and joggers—is weirder than Nike's new surrealistic Lebron James ads. And sonically it stands up with anything LCD head James Murphy has released previously, proving that a paycheck can be as much of a motor as precious inspiration when it comes to making a good record.

The track itself is a pocket history, a mid-tempo disco-by-numbers exercise that follows the rises and falls of a workout routine. Murphy huffs about love for a few minutes, gets swallowed by a funky Wurlitzer passage, and, as the natural cannabinoids hit, starts crying about space travel while cloaked in a vocoder. Shit invariably gets more spacey as the fabled zonehits; the tempo is upped from Italo to something more like Chicago, with a few kind words about alien technology thrown in over a heavily echoed bassline, before the whole track dissipates into beatless synth twinkles—cool down, stretch time, etc.

Of course, there are ethical acrobatics—concessions, at least—waiting to be made. Nike is still very much The Man, eternally liable in the eyes of culturally conscious consumers. But really, each routinized gripe deserves a brief acknowledgement that, yeah, a massive company is rewarding a good band with work. What's even more interesting is that Nike—American economic ingenuity and the marketable spirit of individualism incarnate—has made something as dispassionate and universally functional as science or Soviet art. THIS IS RUNNING MUSIC. THIS IS MUSIC FOR RUNNING. It's sentiment to echo "mood" records, institutional soundtracks, pill bottles. The single's "cover"—it's currently only being sold on iTunes—even has a line graph diagramming the track's rises and falls. Straight from the lab to you. Furthermore, Murphy, the goon with the beakers, though a professed lover of jujitsu, is generally pictured looking unshaven and slightly chubby.

The various disconnects here are fascinating and, frankly, kinda sexy. The old Macintosh ad that had all the pacified automata being disrupted by the one hammer-wielding iconoclast—a runner, ironically—gets a makeover. Instead of marching, they're all jogging together listening to disco, and nobody comes to break anything. Suddenly, fears about losing our itty-bitty customizable slot in the Matrix turn to comforts as you stare from your treadmill with an eerie solace in the hope—the knowledge, even—that the person next to you is on the same prescription.

 
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