Mini-Review: Shut Up and Play the Hits


Shut Up and Play the Hits
Directed by Will Lovelace, Dylan Southern
Starring James Murphy, Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney, Gunnar Bjerk, Chuck Klosterman, Gavin Russom, Keith Wood, Al Doyle

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows how many concerts I attend and on April 2, 2011, I attended what would end up not only being one of the best concert I saw that year, but it would end up being a once in a lifetime experience – the final show of James Murphy’s tech-punk band LCD Soundsystem at a sold out Madison Square Garden. Mind you, years earlier, I saw LCD Soundsystem opening for the Pixies at Jones Beach and thought they were awful, but since that time they released the phenomenal “Sound of Silver.”

A little less than ten months after the MSG show, I was sitting in the Egyptian Theater in Park City, Utah, watching the premiere of Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern’s “Shut Up and Play the Hits” with an audience of LCD fans reliving the concert and getting a look backstage and behind-the-scenes in the 24 hours that followed. In an interview the following day, the filmmakers agreed that it was the kind of movie which needed a theatrical release in order to recreate the communal experience, which is why the film’s eventual distributor Oscilloscope Labs decided to create a one-night only event showing the movie in select theaters across the country.

I was at the Landmark Sunshine last night to see if these screenings for downtown and Williamsburg hipsters would receive a similar reaction and if the movie stood up to a second viewing (at a more reasonable hour than midnight). The movie certainly does work the second time, although this audience was substantially more subdued while watching it.

If you’re already familiar with LCD Soundsystem, then you probably already know most of the songs featured in the movie, only a few of them running for the entire performance, instead cutting to James Murphy returning to his relatively normal life the day after the show and a sit-down interview he did with a music journalist a week earlier. The latter is quite a bit more insightful than the former as it tries to get into the head of the enigmatic frontman at this pivotal moment in his career.

The film is brilliantly assembled from all the diverse material, the concert camerawork (some of it handled by ringers like Spike Jonze) really giving the film a very distinctive look. Granted, this was one of those shows where nothing could match being there, but God bless them for trying, and what’s great about the performance aspect of the movie is that the filmmakers have cameras everywhere, so you can really feel like you’re on stage being part of the party with Murphy and his band.

It’s a bittersweet film for sure, and as the concert closes with “New York I Love You,” things start to sink in for Murphy as he surveys the band’s equipment sitting dormant in a storage space the following day and he breaks down and cries.

Fortunately, the legacy of LCD Soundsystem lives on with their impressive discography over ten years and “Shut Up and Play the Hits” is the type of celebratory nail in their coffin that makes the end feel more like a party than a funeral.

Rating: 8.5/10

While Shut Up and Play the Hits was meant as a one-night only theatrical event, there are some theaters that have created spill-over screenings on July 19 and July 25. You can find out where these theatres are on the Official Site. The IFC Center also added a full week run on July 27. For more info, click here.