‘So here we go, like a sail’s force into the night’
LCD Soundsystem and friends ‘Shut Up and Play the Hits’
Published: Thursday, July 19, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 10, 2012 13:08
In early 2011, James Murphy and his band LCD Soundsystem were the toast of the music scene. After two great debut albums and a cartload of excellent singles, they had just outdone themselves with their third album, “This Is Happening” and played their latest sold-out worldwide tour.
And then they broke up.
“Shut Up and Play the Hits,” a documentary/concert film released in theaters for one night only Wednesday (though it’ll make its way to discs and downloads soon), tells the tale of their final, fateful night, a triumphant swan song where they played a three-plus hour, 29-song, 18,000 screaming fan finale in Madison Square Garden.
It’s obvious Murphy and LCD didn’t break up out of anger and pain, the way so many bands have through history. They’re loving when they’re together backstage, Murphy especially as he plants kisses on the foreheads and necks of his compatriots. And it wasn’t out of a lack of creativity. There are anywhere between seven and dozens of people on stage during the 12 songs “Shut Up” shows off.
And it wasn’t out of a lack of joy. The band rips through the songs with hysterical, happy energy more infectious on tape than most actual live shows you’ve attended have been in person. Their dancing, switching of instruments and grins are reminiscent of our parents’ greatest concert film, the Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense.”
The show is lovingly shot, too. The fans are euphoric, the disco ball that descends during an ape-s*** rendition of “Us v Them” perfectly timed, the special cameos by LCD friends Reggie Watts (during “45’33” Part Two”) and Arcade Fire (during an especially Talking Heads-esque “North American Scum”) happily welcome. The melancholy happiness on display shines through. By the time James nearly cries during the final song, “New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down,” his quote that introduces the film is especially poignant.
“If this is a funeral, let’s make it the best funeral ever.”
Unfortunately, while “Shut Up and Play the Hits” is one of the best live recordings ever to make it to theaters, the film only spends about two-thirds, at most, of its time in Madison Square last April 2. Instead, we see Murphy the day after the decision, going about his first day of retirement from the best job he’s ever had, while scenes from an interview with writer Chuck Klosterman are strewn throughout the film.
If LCD could not go on, through drugs or death or jail time, the last show would remain incredible. But when you’re not seeing a frantic version of “Movement,” you’re watching Murphy shave. For three minutes. And then Klosterman, so good but so pretentious, only asks one worthwhile question.
“What is the biggest failure of LCD Soundsystem?”
And when Murphy’s pressed, he finally answers. The break-up could be it, he says. And it’s hard to disagree. Is it sad when Murphy breaks down crying when he sees his storage bin full of touring gear for the last time? Yeah.
Is it tempered somewhat when you realize LCD had already become such a prolific band that if he took time off to have a life and played a show every once in a while and didn’t worry about it, the band would be even more revered than it is now?
OK, that’s a bit of conjecture, but the point stands. The movie’s good, but it’s tempered by its sense of false tragedy. When the full concert is released, it will probably be one of the best releases of the Aughts, but for now “Shut Up” is a perfect concert mixed with an unsatisfying documentary.
Oh, and it doesn't mention the fact that scalpers bought about 1/3 of the tickets, which prevented thousands of fans from buying affordable tickets.
But I'm not bitter.