A film where James Murphy cleans a coffee machine.
THE SET UP
The song builds.
And then, all of a sudden, everything comes together. Not just the music –but the fans, the emotion, the joy and the regrets. As James Murphy bellows the final verse of All My Friends -the greatest, and one of the saddest songs to ever hit the 21st century- he is visibly shaken and struggling to hold back the tears.
This is what Shut Up and Play the Hits is all about.
This is what LCD Soundsystem are about.
One man, his friends and one big melancholically joyous party.
I love LCD Soundsystem.
It’s hard to pin them (and by them I primarily refer the aforementioned Mr Murphy, the frontman… as well as the guy who writes, produces and records all their music –sort of a new age David Byrne) down as one specific thing or the other, they’re just about the closest thing my generation had to Talking Heads (See how I sneakily followed up the David Byrne line in the last set of brackets? I’m so sly.).
Much in keeping with the group itself, Shut Up and Play the Hits is a bizarre mix of calculated strangeness, occasional flashes of beautifully raw emotion and a whole lot of loudness. This is a film to turn up to neighbour-complainingly hefty volume levels –besides, no neighbour would have the heart or the cojones to complain about the mighty LCD.
Our movie documents the build up to, fallout from, and –of course- the actual event that was LCD Soundsystem’s sellout gig at Madison Square Gardens, the concert that was billed (and proved to tragically be) the last they would ever perform. The film is primarily concerned with the schlubby, bestubbled and offbeatly charming frontman James Murphy –a man so awkwardly aware of himself he might as well be undergoing a permanent out of body experience. Betwixt incredibly noisy blasts of Movement and the like, the film tracks Murphy undergoing such thrilling activities as walking his dog and shaving in his bathroom.
It’s different, that’s for sure.
It’s LCD Soundsystem.
Your ears will thank you.
And then fall off.
The segments where Shut Up and Play the Hits really shine are when all awkwardness and partying is rolled back to reveal the sea of emotion underneath. It really is tumultuous –not quite sorrow, yet not quite joy, the purveying mood is more in keeping with that ever-brilliant Dr Seuss line “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”.
That said, there is a fair bit of crying, including an absolute heartwrecker of a moment when Murphy wanders a newly empty rehearsal space, pausing to quietly weep. The film’s ultimate highlight also manages to arrive with tear-stains on its collar –an absolutely beautiful rendition of All My Friends (LCD’s crowning achievement) that features Murphy’s usually collected on-stage persona visibly choking up.
It’s an absolute killer to watch.
A BRIEF NOTE ON THE BRILLIANCE OF ALL MY FRIENDS
I lie, this isn’t going to be brief at all.
The first time I ever heard All My Friends, I thought it was a good song –a bit repetitive, and that piano bit can get a smidge annoying, but nice in a strange sort of way. And that strangeness stuck with me –to the point where I kept going back to it over and over. I estimate it at about 5 to 7 listens before I really started to “get” All My Friends, it’s a song that sounds happy –and in many ways is happy- but the more you pick away it the more you find a sea of sorrow and regret that make you want to give James Murphy a rather sizable bear hug. In its 7 and a half minute runtime the song covers all manner of middle-aged fears for the future and waves of confused nostalgia –stopping off for a quick Pink Floyd reference- before the denouement erupts into out-and-out emotion of the kind most lyricists could only dream.
And yes, maybe I have spent half this review talking about one damn song. But it’s worth it. It’s absolutely and brilliantly perfect in every conceivable way.
A JOYOUS CONCLUSION
What a weird concert film this is. It simultaneously manages to be tiny and massive; grumpy and exultant; quiet and very very very loud. People who dislike the band (Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.) will almost doubtless go on disliking them, but for those who loved the band -featuring such household names as Seemingly Needless Cowbell Guy and The Ginger One From Hot Chip- it’s something very special indeed.
They didn’t fizzle out –they didn’t even go out with a bang. They went out with one last party. It was the only way they were ever going to do it. It was the LCD way.
I loved James Murphy and co almost unconditionally. All manner of badass musicians will come and go, but there will never be a band quite like LCD Soundsystem.
At least until the Talking Heads get back together.