Alone among dance-music royalty, James Murphy's greatest attribute is his "normal dude" status. Where his peers dress up like robots or put on airs, Murphy exudes a snarky, slacker-like demeanor. As LCD Soundsystem, his songs draw from punk and pop as much as they do disco and techno, often filled with sly, self-depreciating lyrics about the dance scene's tireless mania to remain cutting-edge or confessional admissions about his romantic insecurities. Perhaps that's why indie-rock fans have adopted him as one of their own: His music seems warm and accessible in a way dance music rarely does.
All of this is a long way to explain why 45:33, despite its considerable strengths, seems to be unworthy of Murphy's specific talents. An album-length instrumental piece, initially commissioned by Nike to accompany runners on their jogs, 45:33 consists of six untitled tracks that build from a slow, bubbling opening to an ecstatic conclusion. This isn't workout music that favors monotony as a way to propel exercisers toward the finish line; instead, there's something remarkably human about the way the suite of tunes gathers its momentum and hits its stride. But still, without lyrics, Murphy's grand experiment feels unnecessarily restricted, especially when 45:33 uses as its centerpiece the sighing keyboard patterns from "Someone Great," the melancholy highlight of his stellar Sound of Silver album. Without the poignancy of the words, the song is merely good chill-out music, something any of Murphy's contemporaries could have done. But you don't buy an LCD Soundsystem record to hear him sound like other people.
Tim Grierson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].