“Highly recommended for all LCD Soundsystem fans or anyone who has put their heart and soul into something and knows the turmoil in making the decision to give it all up.”
What do you do when your life has become nearly science fiction? Something you could have never previously fathomed? Rejoice and embrace it? Or put a halt to it and search for a sense of your true self? Shut Up and Play the Hits is a bittersweet mixture of both in the way of an explanation for those who might not understand the decision to call it quits. It’s an illumination of a space and time, which younger fans have yet to experience, and perhaps even as an apology to James Murphy’s teenage self for saying goodbye to his dream.
Documenting LCD Soundsystem‘s frontman James Murphy in the last days surrounding his Madison Square Garden farewell show in April 2011, this film directed by Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace hinges on touching live footage and introspective moments with interviewer and pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman. It depicts Murphy’s emotional struggle leading up to and after the orchestrated demise of the band and the readjustment to his personal world. We get a glimpse into his everyday life: answering and ignoring calls, walking his dog, shaving off his beard, going to the office, making coffee, and even putting his pants on one leg (albeit nearly two) at a time just as anyone else would. All this is shown in deep contrast to planning an expansive four hour ‘funeral’ (as he referred to it) in a stadium for nearly 20,000 adoring fans. There are tears of joy and sadness from Murphy, fellow band members, friends, family and devoted fans who all relished sharing that moment of musical history.
The dichotomy that comes with fame plays heavily into conversations throughout, as does the widening gap between Murphy and his youth. Evident even in early songs like ‘Losing my Edge,’ his self-consciousness and fear of how others perceive him has always been an important subject. While his self-awareness may not have changed his understanding of the world, what he wants from it has altered over the years. This film conveys what seems to be a very cathartic expression of the pleasures and burdens of a successful band but also the relief and possible lament of its end.
In retrospect, it comes as no surprise that Murphy scored the 2010 film Greenberg by Noah Baumbach, which explores the struggles of a man in his early 40s as his own mortality comes into focus. Deciding to take a break and ‘do nothing’, Greenberg reevaluates the choices he’s made and deliberates on what he should do next in life. Incidentally, Murphy has a brief cameo in the film during a scene where an ex-band mate confronts Greenberg about quitting their band years ago, just as they were about to be signed by a major label. Greenberg’s departure ruined things for everyone, which resonates as Klosterman asks, “What is your life like now?” Murphy replies: “I don’t know, it doesn’t start until April 3rd.”
Shut Up and Play the Hits could be described as an ode to the Thomas Pynchon books proudly displayed on Murphy’s bookshelves. A battle of megalomania, paranoia and sacrifice, LCD’s canon of whimsical cultural commentary is complemented by ever-present joyful percussion on a trip into an unknown future. It is highly recommended for all LCD Soundsystem fans or anyone who has put their heart and soul into something and knows the turmoil in making the decision to give it all up.
You can see Shut Up And Play The Hits with a live interview with James Murphy via satellite linkup afterwards in the following Irish cinemas on September 4th: Light House Cinema, Dublin (sold out), IFI, Dublin (sold out), Eye Cinema, Galway, IMC Tallaght, IMC Dun Laoghaire, Omniplex Galway, Omniplex Cork Mahon Point, Omniplex Limerick, Century Letterkenny, Movies @ Dundrum, Movies @ Swords, SGC Dungarvan, Movies @ Gorey, Mayo Movieworld Castlebar.