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For Your Consideration: Shut Up and Play the Hits

 

The blinding stadium lighting and rain of white balloons had signalled the end to what seemed liked a never-ending party. The LCD Soundsystem had just wrapped up their final number of their final show. An exasperated band exits stage left, people snap out of their party drunk trance, and a clean-up crew will scrub the place down leaving no trace of this last concert behind. The next day there shouldn’t be any remains or evidence that the band was even here.

Perhaps, I’m getting ahead of myself. Shut Up and Play the Hits chronicles this final outing of LCD Soundsystem and the next day’s somber hangover aftermath. Fun doesn’t begin to describe the concert portion, which may cause a fatal overdose of endorphins (Editor’s note: Not researched, tested or true). The film also offers surprising emotional depth when it decides to focus on band frontman/creator/producer James Murphy on the day after. Murphy offers insights into just about every little facet of his life and work. Think of a digital, funkier version of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz.

For those unfamiliar with the band, LCD Soundsystem was created back in 2001 by Murphy. The band, which was an unconventional mix of dance punk, indie rock, and electronic music, had a successful run that lasted three albums, ten years, and which all culminates in their final Madison Square Garden Show that is documented in Shut Up and Play the Hits.

The show, which lasted four hours, is the band playing on all their engines. Filled with the energy of a citywide riot, the band plays tracks from their entire all-too-short lifespan featuring guest spots from the Arcade Fire and Reggie Watts. It has a vibe of a never-ending party or rather one that shouldn’t ever end. The dreaded sense of The End casts a long shadow over the show. Sure, it is easy to just tune out everything and listen to the music but there is a palpable sense of finality. Everyone knows the outcome: this is the end. After this show the band is dissolved, no more albums, no more shows, no more music. Even if it is the end, the combination of finality along with the band on their A-game creates an exhilarating vibe. As if the band in its death thralls launches one last violent reaction. It’s a runaway train of a concert that is heading full speed towards a bottomless cliff. There’s nothing left to do besides embrace the manic energy of it all. The end is near for everyone so the only rational thing to do is go out with a bang and have a good time. The concert portion is exactly that: a good time put to screen.

Of course, watching the LCD Soundsystem is a fun time in itself, but Shut Up and Play the Hits adds an extra emotional edge. Spliced throughout the concert are scenes of Murphy’s life after the concert. The never-ending escapades are replaced with never-ending mundane activity. Instead of sardine can-like Madison Square Garden, it centers around smaller, emptier places with Murphy doing his everyday routine. It is quite the sharp contrast that creates a very somber undercurrent to the whole affair. Not to mention, Murphy’s interviews that seem to express some regret of it being all over. Once again it brings forth the finality of it all. The stars and planets align perfectly for the ultimate last hurrah and now is the come down.

Even if you are not a fan of the band, Shut Up and Play the Hits is still worth a look see. Murphy’s interviews and the post concert section provide an interesting, not to mention emotional, look at a man’s passion project that ends in a span of a night. The interviews provide a rather interesting look at Murphy’s life where he spills his guts about his work, thoughts the future, and what’s next for him. Even if you’re unable to connect with the music at all these sections provide a rather captivating look at Murphy and what goes into creating the music and the effects of ending it on him.

Shut Up and Play the Hits is the epitome of the bitter sweetness of that old cliche, “all good things must come to an end”. That beautiful darkness of unknown, unstoppable fun is broken by the lights, bringing everything back to reality and slowing it all down.

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