“If it’s a funeral, let’s have the best funeral ever.” And so they did. On April 2, 2011, New York’s beloved LCD Soundsystem played their last show at Madison Square Garden in support of their last album, This Is Happening (a title that drove home the point that, yes, this band will no longer make music anymore). For those who have made an attempt to see the best rock music documentary of the summer (though I will unabashedly tell you that Katy Perry: Part of Me ranks second–but then, those are really the only two rock documentaries to choose from anyway), it seems a near impossible feat, playing at limited theaters with even more limited dates. But, as someone who caught sight of this unicorn, I must tell you that you should make every effort to see it for yourself.
Filmed over the span of forty-eight hours, Shut Up and Play the Hits alternates between the quiet moments leading up to and after the show and the raucous, visceral, extremely loud songs that LCD Soundsystem played for their epic thee hour and forty-one minute set. That’s right, almost a full four hours of dancing, laughing, crying Bushwick/Greenpoint/Williamsburg denizens soaking up as much as they could of James Murphy, Nancy Whang, Tyler Pope, David Scott Stone, Matt Thornley, Gavin Russom, Al Doyle, J.D. Mark, Phil Skarich and Phil Mossman. Shit, that’s a lot of band members to visually take in. And though Murphy wrote most of the instrumentals himself, boyfriend knows the value of onstage assistance.
As Murphy goes through the process of metaphorically closing his account, he goes on an interview for The Colbert Report where Stephen Colbert questions what Murphy will do with his free time now that he’s retired. Murphy shrugs, “I like to make coffee.” And, in truth, he does (which is why it wasn’t surprising that, back in January, reports of Murphy’s upcoming espresso line began to surface). But for someone who created iconoclastic songs like “Losing My Edge,” “North American Scum,” “Get Innocuous!,” “You Wanted A Hit,” “Pow Pow” and “Drunk Girls,” it seems difficult to believe that Murphy could be completely content with a life without LCD Soundsystem.
In fact, this is a main point of discussion throughout the film as Murphy is interviewed by a cult figure in his own right, Chuck Klosterman (putting lesbian haircuts everywhere to shame). Klosterman pointedly notes that most musicians are remembered for their successes, but defined by their one failure. When Klosterman inquires what Murphy will look back on and view as LCD Soundsystem’s failure, he only has to waffle for a second before saying, “Stopping.”
This admission of fear and regret is tempered by Murphy’s assertion that he knows it’s the right thing to do based on the future he has in mind (including having children). He notes that he got famous at 38, blinked, and was 41. He continues, “Two more blinks and I’ll be 50.” Murphy’s introspective state when talking to Klosterman also revealed that he was unsure if he could adjust to full-fledged fame (which would have invariably occurred if the band had kept going). He professes a love of being able to walk the streets (Havemeyer Street) and ride the subway (J Train by the Marcy Stop, specifically by Checkers–which, on a different note is better than most other fast food, burgerwise) with the promise of being generally anonymous.
But with that tradeoff comes the loss of something that Murphy finds himself unexpectedly mourning throughout the film, breaking down in tears at one point in front of a row of guitars. The fans’ reactions at the end of the final performance were equally as heart-wrenching, concluding with one fan in particular who stood in melancholic awe at an empty stage. LCD Soundsystem’s absence from the music industry, however, does not mean that any other band will ever be able to compare to them or the music they created that re-shaped the dance and electronic genre for the twenty-first century. Not only that, but what other band would 1) Meet for a simple celebration at Marlow and Sons after playing to a crowd of approximately 15,000 people and 2) Play a Soft Cell song that isn’t “Tainted Love” or Sex Dwarf” in the closing credits (“Say Hello Wave Goodbye” is much more appropriate)?