LCD Soundsystem: ‘Shut up and Play the Hits’

“James Murphy didn’t direct Shut Up and Play the Hits, the documentary about the last concert performed by his band, LCD Soundsystem, at Madison Square Garden in 2011,” writes Steven Hyden at the AV Club. “But the film is a product of his magpie record-collector’s aesthetic. The idea to throw a big farewell bash with friends (including Arcade Fire and comedian-musician Reggie Watts) is cribbed from The Last Waltz. The film’s elegiac, end-of-an-era tone comes from Woodstock. The framing device for Shut Up and Play the Hits—the ecstatic performance footage is cut with morning-after scenes of a pensive, bored-looking Murphy struggling to come to terms with what he’s just done—is reminiscent of Gimme Shelter. The obvious difference is that there’s a lot less at stake in Shut Up and Play the Hits: Nobody died at LCD Soundsystem’s final show, apart from the group identity Murphy created a decade earlier.”

When the film premiered at Sundance in January, the LA Weekly‘s Karina Longworth wrote that it “offers more basic narrative satisfaction than many of the fiction films shown here using documentary aesthetics in the name of realism.” Talking with Murphy for the Voice this week, Karina tries to get him to “explain why he chose to call it quits on a band that, 10 years after the landmark first single ‘Losing My Edge,’ was indisputably at the peak of its success. In addition to the predictable ubiquity in Silver Lake and Williamsburg, LCD’s third and final full-length, This Is Happening, had debuted in the overall Billboard Top 10 and displaced Lady Gaga at the top of the dance chart. Anna Kendrick starred in one video; Spike Jonze directed another. The higher profile was part of the problem.”

“[D]irected by Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern, the film attempts to capture a single moment and the reason that moment was able to happen,” writes the New Yorker‘s Sasha Frere-Jones. “A consistent impression I had of watching Murphy and his band work was that, no matter what happened, Murphy rarely lost control, or believed his own press, or became entranced by the significant popularity that he had unexpectedly generated. Nothing was a big deal, except that it always was, insofar as everybody involved wanted things to go well because the project was a gorgeous lark that had become meaningful to people in a way that so many self-serious artists would kill for. An anti-star had become a star while managing not to romanticize a moment that was acutely personal for fans who wanted nothing more than that moment to continue. A perfect place to stop.”

Reviews from Sundance: Simon Abrams (House Next Door), William Goss (Playlist), Noel Murray (AV Club, B), Nathan Rabin (AV Club, A-), and Alicia Van Couvering (Filmmaker). More interviews with Murphy: Katie Hasty (Hitfix) and Jada Yuan (Vulture). Interviews with Lovelace and Southern: Dan Schoenbrun (Filmmaker) and indieWIRE.

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