Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Shut Up And Play The Hits - Review

It seems like it has been a lot longer than merely a year and a couple of months since legendary band LCD Soundsystem disbanded. Within that period of time, I, and most likely the rest of the LCD Soundsystem fanbase have wondered on various occasions whether quitting LCD was the right decision and whether James and co. would ultimately end up regretting their decision. James Murphy has certainly not taken out much time to dwell on the past, DJing with bandmate Pat Mahoney, rumoured to be on production duties for Arcade Fire and Yeah Yeah Yeahs as well as Klaxons – and working on a short film with Ron Howard and on top of that, he’s going to open a shop in Brooklyn that sells coffee amongst other things. If that wasn’t enough, Murphy mentions in Shut Up And Play The Hits that he also wants to have kids. Although Murphy regularly refers to the band ending as his ‘retirement’, it certainly doesn’t feel that way and Edith Bowman feels likewise - further addressing the use of the word in her live satellite Q&A, feeling that it isn’t his retirement.

However, for the acutely self-aware and self-conscious James Murphy, this definitely feels like the end, the last show at Madison Square Garden serving as a ‘funeral’ but as the opening line reads “If it’s a funeral, let’s have the best funeral ever”. It’s understandable that Murphy would want to preserve his pristine reputation as an artist and it shows just how self-aware he was as the band was cut off right on the cusp of them becoming a worldwide phenomenon. As it stands, LCD Soundsystem and James Murphy have become cult heroes; which seems to bode well for Murphy as he says he wants to be able to ride the subway and go get coffee, be a normal person as well as create music. Although, as with everything, he considers the other side of the story – if you love making music and you love giving that music to your fans, should you deprive them of that because of what seems to be a fear of fame?

Watching Shut Up And Play The Hits, it becomes painfully clear that the right decision was definitely made. Whilst we would all love another album, a reunion, a reunion tour; it just wouldn’t feel right for the fans or for the members of LCD Soundsystem. Their legacy has now been immortalised in visual form perfectly and to try to add to that would be everything James Murphy is afraid of about bands disintegrating when they get older. Even though, the terms on which the band separated were almost a bit confusing – to have a band so calmly and amicably announce that there would be many lasts and then after one massive farewell show, the band would end, is a very rare instance.

Although, this farewell show was no ordinary farewell, there were few clich├ęs just as Murphy had intended. However, there are cameos from a crowd surfing Aziz Ansari and dancing Donald Glover, a somehow amusing overly emotional crying fan, spaceships, special guests including Arcade Fire, a choir dressed in DFA spacesuits as well as hundreds of balloons falling from the sky in slo-mo being bounded across the venue interspersed with shots of Murphy throwing and kicking balloons back into the crowd. Whilst a lot of the focus in Shut Up And Play The Hits surrounds the final show; it also follows the journey of James Murphy in the days before the show and shortly after. By showing the background to the show, it really makes the whole experience a lot more emotional.

The more personal scenes that are in between gig scenes start off more mundane with Murphy making coffee and taking his dog out for a walk – portraying him as someone just as normal as anyone else. As we develop this human connection with him throughout the film, it becomes even harder when we watch the reaction to the aftermath of the Madison Square Garden show. The brief scene in which he sits down in the storage room and the silence cuts like a knife for a minute or so before breaking down into tears on camera is heartbreaking to watch. When an interviewer asks him what he thinks the sole failure of LCD was, he responds with a somewhat unsurprising answer - that time will tell but ending the band could be that failure. To some, the interviewer will seem pretentious and annoying but he does provoke answers from Murphy that are very interesting, especially as he doesn’t like “boring interviews”, like those with questions such as “Did Daft Punk really play at your house?”

Interestingly, Shut Up And Play The Hits is made by the same people who made Blur’s reunion DVD, Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace. No Distance Left To Run is the antithesis of Shut Up And Play The Hits so it’s interesting to see the difference between a reunion documentary and a break-up documentary but the same emotional connection is maintained and the same type of slow motion intimate crowd shots are seen throughout SUAPTH. These give a clearer picture of the atmosphere at Madison Square Garden, something that would not have the same impact if mostly focused on the band playing and only rarely glancing at the sea of bobbing heads.

Even though the songs played live on Shut Up And Play The Hits are only a quarter of what LCD will have played that night, it gives a glimpse into what it felt like to be there, as the band and as the fans. There is really nothing to be criticised about this fitting tribute to a wonderful band that never set one foot wrong in their musical career. An emotional sight into the lead up to LCD Soundsystem’s break up and the various reasons that caused it to happen combined with concert footage that will make you want to dance yrself clean with someone great.


Aurora Mitchell

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