FILM REVIEW: Shut Up and Play The Hits

By Shane Colman

James Murphy, the musical mastermind behind LCD Soundsystem, does not think it’s better to burn out than fade away. For his band’s final show, Murphy wanted the whole thing to explode like Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes and boldly stated, “If it’s gonna be funeral, let’s have the best funeral ever.”

So begins the phenomenal documentary Shut Up And Play The Hits. Half concert film from LCD’s final show at Madison Square Garden, half portrait of the artist as he walks away from his masterpiece, and all raw exploration of the modern state of artistry, this movie sets a new bar for the intersection of film and music.

The concert half of the film puts you onstage with the band as they kick out their unique brand of dance rock once last time at an epic, four hour show on the world’s most famous stage. With some assistance from friends in Arcade Fire and a men’s choir, the band pulses and pounds with the energy of a band at the top of their game (which LCD certainly were). The musical prowess on display only makes the other half of the story, which attempts to determine why Murphy walked away, that much disheartening.

James Murphy’s decision to call it quits after a flawless string of 4 studio albums left many people, including Murphy himself, baffled. As cameras follow Murphy around in the days following the blowout concert, all the safety of the stage is stripped away to lay bare the emotional core of the man behind the band. Like a person in grief, the weight of the death of LCD doesn’t hit Murphy until he find himself alone in a room surrounded by all the band’s equipment that will soon be sold off. In the film’s most touching offstage scene, Murphy breaks down and cries amongst these newly antiquated instruments. The camera lingers on the man just long enough to share the emotion, but doesn’t overstay its welcome into uncomfortable voyeurism.

As balloons shower down on the emotionally overwhelmed crowd and Murphy laments, “New York I love you, but you’re bringing me down,” the full weight of the band’s relevance to our particular time and place hits home. LCD Soundsystem is THE New York band of the past decade, and their absence has left a void in a scene that serves as the unofficial focal point of alternative music. We can only hope that this is not the last we hear from the band and the unique vision that Mr. Murphy brought…