Shut Up and Play the Hits – film review

Shut Up and Play the Hits: The Very Loud Ending of LCD Soundsystem
Directed by Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern 
Released 4 September 2012 

When LCD Soundsystem decided to call it a day in 2011 they decided to go out with a bang not a whimper. This rockumentary charts the final times in the band and the last concert, celebrating their music rather than mourning their demise.

LCD Soundsystem no longer exists. It is all over.

James Murphy and the other band members decided to call it a day last year and played their last gig at Madison Square Gardens on 2nd April 2011. They decided to make a party of it and “If it’s a funeral, let’s have the best funeral ever.”

The entire event is covered in the new film, Shut Up and Play the Hits, which was premiered at the Hackney Picturehouse, where Murphy and many others involved in making the film attended and participated in a Q&A session after the screening.

The film was simultaneously screened to around 50 venues across the UK and Ireland, giving British and Irish fans a chance to celebrate music that has soundtracked their lives for the past 10 years.

I really like LCD Soundsystem. What I like about the music is it kind of tricks you into relaxing in a weird way.

I find myself getting lost in the rhythms, dancing around my kitchen –  or on the street if I’m waiting around and listening to my MP3 player. I find myself being hypnotically immersed in the sound and unconsciously swinging my hips.

While this is going on, the clever lyrics are diving into my brain, swimming around, sparking off barely cognitive thoughts. This experience feels fluid and is utterly enjoyable. I like to lose myself in the music.

For me, Shut Up and Play the Hits did not work. It is structured, so that songs are shown interspersed with questions and answers from an interview with James Murphy, along with clips of what was going on behind the scenes at and in the build up to the gig and footage of Murphy’s domestic life.

This means, that if you enjoy LCD Soundsystem the way I do, then just as you feel like kicking your shoes of and cutting some rug, the music stops and there you are watching Murphy lounging around wondering whether or not he has the energy to take his dog for a walk or listening to his endless stream of messages on his mobile phone. I don’t know about you, but I find it boring watching the other people in my own house do things like that.

I can understand why Murphy wants to use the film as a platform and a channel to communicate with his audience and to put his side of the story across. I hope that when the DVD comes out, there will be an option to watch the concert straight through without the interview/background/domestic footage breaking it up.

I find what Murphy has to say via his music very interesting. His work is inspiring and stimulates debate. However, he is a man who has spent the last 10 years devoting most of his time and energy to LCD Soundsystem, so when you look at his life outside of that, there’s not much too it.

He has a lovely flat full of records and interesting books, a dog and a very fancy coffee machine. There’s not a lot to go on when making a film. I sat watching it thinking that James Murphy cannot be the most interesting member of LCD Soundsystem. What about Nancy or Pat? Surely the end of the band must have an impact on their lives that is more interesting than this?

Having said all that, the actual concert footage is excellent. The camera work is superb – one of the many cameras around the venue was operated by Spike Jonze. The editing of the concert really captures the celebratory atmosphere of the occasion and the energy drives out of the screen.

Members of Arcade Fire join the band for North American Scum and it is during the introduction to the song that Win Butler shouts “Shut up and play the hits!” In doing so, giving the film its name. Reggie Watts also duets with Murphy on 45:33. All the songs are great. It is hard to pick out highlights. They finish up with an emotional rendition of New York I love you and there were cheers all round the cinema as well as on the big screen.

Back in Hackney, Edith Bowman did her best not to do a Sharon Stone impersonation despite a camera being pointed upwards at her from floor level. Pat, Nancy and Keith all joined the Q&A with via the magic of the internet from New York and Murphy, Aldo and directors, Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace sat at the front with their beers, smiling away and not really taking the Q&A very seriously.

During the film, Murphy pointed out that he was 41 years old and had not had kids yet. He said that at 38, he decided to make another record, blinked and suddenly he was 41.

He is a man who is a aware of time passing and the need to harness it. He explains that there are things he wants to do in life other than LCD Soundsystem.

Personally, I can’t see him stopping being creative. His brain will keep generating ideas. Hopefully, he’ll keep an electronic ideas file and revisit it when his kids start school and he can plan his return.

All words by Vivienne Wilson. You can read more from Vivienne on LTW here.

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