LCD Soundsystem doc ‘Shut Up and Play the Hits’ is lively and probing
Hundreds of white balloons descend upon the Madison Square Garden audience during LCD Soundsystem’s final live show. A notable and influential band in their own right, frontman James Murphy decided to disband the group at the peak of their popularity in 2011, ensuring that the band would go out on top with what was arguably the band’s most ambitious concert of their career. Filmmakers Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern would chart that eventful night in New York, while also calling into question Murphy’s abrupt decision to call it quits. Being a fan of the group brings extra incentive and pleasure out of watching Murray wrestle with his decision throughout the film. We’re privy to his spiraling collective consciousness that remains undefined to a certain degree even after the film closes.
This isn’t to say that all of the film deals with such ramifications and regret on Murphy’s part; most of it functions as an energetic and lively party. We’re essentially front row for the concert, focusing in on the band and their faithful fans as each party comes to grips with saying goodbye; Lovelace and Southern give us a before and after concert look at Murphy, juxtaposing footage from the concert throughout – arguably the film’s bulkiest portion. It’s a simple editing maneuver that allows for narrative contemplation on Murphy’s behalf, as he’s interviewed regarding his decision roughly a week before the concert by writer Chuck Klosterman.
Murphy would spend his day after the concert moping around his quiet apartment and trying to put into perspective just exactly what took place the night before. Would this last performance symbolize the end of an era, the beginning of something new, or perhaps both? The probing framework of Murphy’s quandary serves as a painstaking mirror into perception, fame and responsibility. Shut Up and Play the Hits is a little light on milieu, often placing the rest of the band in the background. There’s a certain scrapbook approach to some of what the filmmakers capture, but make no mistake, this is Murphy’s story. Certain moments stick out: The camera placed solely on a couple as they kiss with the band out of focus in the background, Murphy being reduced to tears as he visits the venue the day after the concert, surrounded by the band’s equipment that may never be used again.
At its core, it’s often thrilling to watch the band perform their final show – perhaps draining to some, as the band would extend the length of the show with sporadic breaks. Even with a resounding intimacy surrounding Murphy, the film functions best as an energetic party. Their final show spotlights the band’s best songs, while also interweaving in the band’s consistent interplay with the audience. An appearance by Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem closing the concert with “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” are also nice little moments that immediately resonate. The band’s final curtain call invites a dizzying wave of uneasiness. A sense of loss invades the proceedings as the lights in the arena go back on. A successful band has written their final chapter, leaving their fans and the ideology of Murphy reeling in the process.
– Ty Landis