Shut Up and Play the Hits

Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace

BY Bjorn OlsonPublished May 4, 2012

Saying, "it's time" on a successful, well loved and not least of all, moneymaking project is difficult for any artist. Consider how many tired old rock'n'roll bands have carried on way after their best-before date and any vestige of common sense simply because it's a steady paycheque. For multi-talented musician James Murphy and his popular post-modern disco outfit, LCD Soundsystem, the time was right – right now.

Assembling his band one last time for a final gigantic show at Madison Square Garden, the ins-and-outs of LCD Soundsystem's concluding hours are chronicled in Shut Up and Play the Hits, a nicely constructed documentary that's part concert film, part talking head interview and part post-mortem. Shut Up has been largely promoted as a fan-centric, ultimate document and love letter, preserving the band's last show, which turned into a much bigger cultural event than anyone imagined. And while the concert footage is lively, the most interesting aspects of the film are Murphy's day after wandering around New York City trying to tie up some loose ends, and the clever, probing interview with Chuck Klosterman interspersed throughout.

Klosterman posits that self-consciousness may be Murphy's biggest flaw, but that self-consciousness is part-and-parcel of the self-awareness that drove LCD Soundsystem. Murphy was a man who started a band in his 30s after a varied musical career and sang songs about music and what it was like to appreciate it. While an appreciation of the collected works of LCD certainly aids in the appreciation of the film, speaking as one who never quite got the hype, this does what a quality music documentary should do: opens up Murphy's world as one of creative expression that can be appreciated by anyone. The sight of Murphy starting to weep as he surveys all the LCD gear in storage will resonate with anyone who had to let something meaningful slip away.

In a way, the last LCD Soundsystem gig represented a strange cultural nexus point for a generation more culturally narrow-casted than any before. This was a modern band, not simply a contemporary group recycling the music of 30 years past, which sold out Madison Square Garden. While Shut Up and Play the Hits wisely and unpretentiously focuses on capturing the aesthetic experience as closely as possible, it also may prove to be a film that captures something particularly culturally resonant.

There is a moment early on where the camera pans up to reveal masses of white balloons tethered to the ceiling, but it's still powerful when they fall at the climax. For once, a new generation has its rock'n'roll fantasy.

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