When LCD Soundsystem announced they were “… retiring from the game. Gettin’ out. Movin’ on” online last year following one last show at Madison Square Gardens, fans clamored for tickets to their coveted farewell. Shut Up and Play The Hits follows LCD frontman James Murphy through this journey of letting go, and serves as a memoir of a particular moment in the band’s lifespan, a reflection on the end.
Directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern’s experience in creating music documentaries and videos was evident in the vibrant cinematography in the scenes of the live show. The birds eye camera which shot fans scuffling around in the standing space directly in front of the stage, and the other cinematographers, including Spike Lee, placed at natural points on stage and in the crowd, gave the illusion of being at the show. The pulsing keyboard chorus of “Dance Yrself Clean” caused impromptu seat dancing across the theatre and these few but powerful snippets of the live show, created an emotional tone throughout film.
The live clips are interspersed with a narration interview with American writer and essayist Chuck Klosterman, shot at New York hot spot The Spotted Pig, the week leading up to the big show. The interview deconstructs the idea of Murphy as the “rock star”, exploring the bands high and low lights, discussing his roots as a musician, and the bands journey to fame. “I was 38 and I decided to make a record; I blinked and I was 41.”
Moments of identification with emotional crowd members, often crying, motion toward what any LCD fan felt when they announced the band would be no more. Murphy is shown dragging himself around his apartment the morning after the show, staring at his bulldog and generally seeming to scream “now what?” between scenes of normalcy making coffee and trimming his patchy greyish beard.
The strongest parts of the film, in true documentary form, are quite unexpected. Perhaps the most candid of all comes when Murphy bursts into tears with his back turned to the camera amongst the band’s equipment in a storage space the day after the show. Another moment captured a final dinner the day after the show at Williamsburg hot spot Marlow & Sons with the exhausted but happy band celebrating the last ten years shared together. Candid moments during the live show were marked by a particularly red-faced sobbing fan, Panda suited devotees clutching their hearts long after the lights had gone up at MSG, and Arcade Fire joining LCD onstage for “North American Scum.”
Shut Up and Play the Hits is a heartfelt love letter to LCD Soundsystem fans as well as an interesting character study of the genius that is James Murphy, who also produced and did all the sound mixing for the film. Though it might have been nice to have a surface dive into the other band members’ perspectives during this milestone in their band history, the directors explained in a live Q&A following one of the screenings, that their aim was not to make a film about the bands history, choosing to capture what Murphy suggested was a naturally poignant moment for the band.
Dirs. Dylan Southern & Will Lovelace, 2011, HD presentation, 105 min.