“If it’s a funeral, let’s have the best funeral ever”. That’s how Shut Up And Play The Hits opens up, and it’s 100% appropriate. The film documents the last show of LCD Soundsystem – a massive sold out 4 hour gig at Madison Square Garden – and the days following. It’s a painfully bittersweet experience. Over the course of the movie, 12 LCD classics are interspersed with footage of James Murphy getting up the next morning, walking his french bulldog, shaving, visiting an empty DFA Records office, and stopping by a storage unit full of LCD’s tour gear, which is soon to be sold. The result is a heavy-hearted goodbye for any fan of the band, but the blow is softened by absolutely the best live recording and live documentation of the band to date.
The onstage moments are loud and marvelous. James Murphy and DFA counterpart Gunnar Bjerk did some incredible sound editing to make the 12 song seen here as visceral as possible. “Movement” shook the theater with noise and “Yeah” (the crass version, obviously) nearly blew the speakers. But volume wasn’t the only priority – for “All My Friends” and “Someone Great”, you could feel and hear the surge of energy between the band and their massive crowd. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a film do this better than Shut Up And Play The Hits. It’s a hard task to make a film of a concert as emotionally engaging as the concert itself, but thanks to some excellent sound engineering and filming, this film accomplishes the impossible.
Offstage, everything is quiet. There is almost no additional music in the film, outside a ringtone and the credits song (Soft Cell’s classic “Say Hellow, Wave Goodbye”). It’s the quiet after the storm, and the symbolic significance plays heavily into the melancholy tone of these parts of the film. If it isn’t hard enough watching Murphy on the edge of tears talking to manager Keith Wood and trying to wrangle everyone together for one last dinner party at Marlow & Sons, Chuck Klosterman brings the heat during their interview sessions. Klosterman nudges Murphy into a retrospective that might take another man years to write. But as introspective as Murphy is, the big questions are met with big answers. Responding to a question of what LCD attempted to accomplish, Murphy says, “I never went to a show that I loved where I didn’t have a preexisting belief about the band, or a belief that was solidified by my seeing them… I guess that’s what we were trying to leave behind. Like… a mark, or a stain.”
That stain was no doubt felt by those present. Throughout the film, there are shots of fans weeping as they sing along, knowing that this is the last time LCD will perform all of their songs. But amidst the tears, Murphy and crew give it their all and play truly one of their all time best shows. Shut Up And Play The Hits documents this in unabashed glory, and is no doubt the best concert film I’ve seen in a long, long time.