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Review: Shut Up and Play the Hits


The last of LCD Soundsystem, now captured on film...

Review: Shut Up and Play the Hits...

In a week that, coincidentally, I watched the Sigur Rós concert movie Inni and Talking Heads’ seminal Stop Making Sense, it seems fitting that I should now be reviewing the most recent music documentary film, Shut Up and Play the Hits.

Directed by Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace, the film documents the last ever gig by dance-punk band LCD Soundsystem at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and follows frontman and founder James Murphy on the days before and after the concert. It also features Murphy in an interview with American writer Chuck Klosterman that is sporadically cut between live footage.

For a music film to appeal to a wider audience than just its core fanbase, it needs to get the tone and the balance between live footage and context just right. Take my previous example for instance; Stop Making Sense is a film, devised by David Byrne, performed by Talking Heads (at the height of their career), and directed by Jonathan Demme, that I believe is accessible to all. Whether you are familiar with the band’s music or not, the energy, performances and structure of the film will be engaging to everyone (who couldn’t enjoy the sight of David Byrne and his backing singers all jogging on the spot singing Life During Wartime?) It’s clearly a band having loads of fun performing and this sense of excitement is infectious.

Shut Up and Play the Hits also documents a band at the height (but also the end) of their career. The film begins with a clip from James Murphy’s last ever television interview as LCD Soundsystem on the Colbert Report and he discusses how he is planning to bring a decade of music to a triumphant climax. Between this clip and the main interview, it’s made clear that ending LCD is a huge thing for Murphy, but for me there is never enough of a reason for doing it. Indeed I can only recall one reason (and it is a fair one) for stopping, which is that Murphy wants to start a family. In order for this concert to be put into its proper context it could have done with more explanation for Murphy’s conclusion while also getting a real flavour of the history of the band. Why not talk to some of the many members of the live band who will undoubtedly miss playing with LCD Soundsystem too? There is also very little archive footage and the non-concert footage of the frontman walking his dog - “it’s a British Bulldog” - while serving as a contrast to the crazy live show, is quite boring as is the stuff in his very white apartment.

If the film had gone into more detail, like a true music doc like Dig! or No Direction Home, it would have been far more enjoyable instead of dragging inbetween live clips. An alternative way of keeping the audience interested would have been just to show the concert. This live footage is enough to sustain any audience for an hour and a half whether they are familiar with the music or not. The energy on stage, the excitement and fun had by the band and their special guests (including members of Arcade Fire), and the skill shown by all the brilliant musicians is captivating. Forget anything Murphy says in the interviews, the image of him on the verge of tears during the final song, New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, is the film’s most emotional moment. It’s clear that laying LCD Soundsytem to rest is a huge deal to Murphy.

The full last-ever concert lasted around 4 hours so obviously there was a decision made to include only highlights from the night’s set which makes perfect sense, but because of time being eaten up by a fairly pointless interview we are restricted only to a small selection from the band’s three albums, focusing mainly on Sound of Silver. Coming to this film as a relative LCD Soundsystem newbie it was nice to hear many songs I recognised; but the focus on this album could perhaps be a little misleading to those with less knowledge of the band. Nevertheless, from All My Friends to Us v Them and even to Angelo Badalamenti’s theme tune to Twin Peaks (I approve), it is obvious that this is a band with incredible stage presence, making a huge amount of perfectly orchestrated noise to over 14,000 die-hard fans. One young lad is even seen crying multiple times throughout the film.

Overall, Shut Up and Play the Hits is a decent post-script to a short-lived - but immensely talented - career, and it made me want to get up, seek out the rest of the band’s catalogue and have a dance! The film is perhaps a little too lightweight to be called a documentary, and with less than enough live songs to be a complete concert movie, but will certainly still appeal to fans of LCD Soundsystem while also having enough fantastic performance footage for new fans to enjoy.

3 stars

Director: Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace
Release Date: 4th September
Running Time: 108 mins approx.
Certificate: 15
LCD Soundsystem, members of Arcade Fire


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