Shut Up and Play the Hits
Release date: July 18, 2012
Directed by: Will Lovelace, Dylan Southern
Cast: James Murphy, Chuck Klosterman, Gunnar Bjerk, Al Doyle, Pat Mahoney, Tyler Pope, Gavin Russom, Josh Stern, Matt Thornley, Nancy Whang, Keith Wood, Reggie Watts, Win Butler, Will Butler, Régine Chassagne
It takes only seconds for Shut Up and Play the Hitsto turn audiences all over the country on the night of July 18th into a grand emotional mess as the words, “If it’s a funeral, let’s make it the best funeral ever,” appear on screen. Quite literally starting off with a bang, the background noise of the speakers during a sound check fills the theater just like any concert venue.
On this night, as the crew sets the stage and the opening credits roll, everyone feels right at home in Madison Square Garden. Some prepare to say farewell to a close friend, while others patiently wait to relive the experience of LCD Soundsystem’s final concert.
Shut Up and Play the Hits is a documentary that chronicles the final performance of the dance-punk band, LCD Soundsystem. While the year-old concert is the heart of the film, another layer goes deep into what made band frontman James Murphy want to give all of this up. Snippets of a revealing interview with Chuck Klosterman are laced between performances, along with scenes from the day after the show, offering fans a lot of insight into the middle-aged musician and his insecurities about stardom.
There’s something morbidly hilarious about watching James Murphy lounge around his house — playing with his dog, making coffee, and even shaving — all while knowing exactly what this film means. Menial tasks like this provide just the right contrast to the party going on throughout the film, serving as a reprieve of sorts to the inevitable end of the show. There shouldn’t be this ring of silence, but in these simple scenes everything is safe, if only for the moment. Still, the show must go on, and everyone is forced right back into the sweat, the sound, and the spirit of the film.
Directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern were the lucky pair to capture this musical event on film. Their heavy-handed use of rack focus and shaky cam is amateurish and diminishes the impact of certain scenes, but not nearly enough to outweigh the sheer amount of striking footage edited together in these 105 minutes. From the many cameras surrounding the stage and audience — one of which was even handled by Spike Jonze, director of Adaptation and Being John Malkovich — come some truly impressive shots of the concert. The concert is presented from almost every angle, and one can’t help feeling as though they are part of the audience, immersed in the crisp, quality sound work.
Of the twelve out of twenty-nine songs featured in Shut Up and Play the Hits, there are a few that stand out from the rest. The first comes with a particularly sincere rendition of Sound of Silver‘s All My Friends, which is soon followed by Reggie Watts joining the band on stage for an all-out soulful performance of 45:33‘s Shame On You. The whole mood of the show really changes about halfway through as James Murphy introduces Arcade Fire members Win Butler, Will Butler, and Régine Chassagne to audiences with a speech that resulted in Butler yelling, “Shut up and play the hits!” just before they energetically sang North American Scum.
The final moments of the film are the most heart-wrenching, as one constantly crying member of the concert audience would surely agree. As Klosterman asks Murphy what he thinks his biggest failure during his career with LCD Soundsystem is, we face the hardest, yet most fascinating, moment of the film to watch. An unsure Murphy replies with, “Stopping. I think the biggest failure might be stopping. I don’t know yet.” It is here that we cut to the final song of the show, led in smoothly by a cover of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks Theme.
With New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, the last track from their album Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem says their grand goodbye to an audience of 19,500 loving fans. With Shut Up and Play the Hits, however, they take what might be their final bow to fans everywhere, and thankfully it’s one that will not likely be forgotten.