LCD Soundsystem was a group on the periphery of my awareness. I liked the songs I heard, and loved the video for "Drunk Girls," but I never acquired an album and didn't see the band perform.
So I was surprised to find out just how popular the James Murphy-fronted electro-dance-rock act had become over the course of three albums when the singer announced that the group was disbanding last year and would play its final show on April 2 at New York City's Madison Square Garden. The storied arena sold out instantly, and it's that final performance and the moments leading up to it and after it that are the focus of Shut Up and Play the Hits, a documentary directed by Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern that played at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on Tuesday night.
The film goes back and forth between scenes of Chuck Klosterman interviewing Murphy and footage from the concert. The sound and cinematography are both excellent and really bring the LCD Soundsystem live experience to life, and backstage scenes with special guests Arcade Fire enhance the aura of this being a special event.
Murphy was in his mid-thirties by the time LCD Soundsystem released its self-titled debut album in 2005, and he cites the aging effects that touring had on him as a major reason for dissolving the group at the height of its fame when he was 41. Later, when asked what the band's biggest failure is, he replies that he's not sure yet but thinks that it might be ending it.
Murphy comes across as a thoughtful and likeable person, but he shows his vulnerability towards the end of the film when he breaks down and cries when he's alone with LCD Soundsystem's equipment and instruments following the final show.
Tears were also streaming off some fans' faces at that last concert. And while LCD Soundsystem's break-up meant little to me when it happened, Shut Up and Play the Hits successfully conveys the band's impact and helped me understand why its demise was a major event for many.
And playing Soft Cell's "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" over the closing credits wraps things up perfectly.
You can watch the trailer for Shut Up and Play the Hits here. You can see the entire film at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 at 9:30 p.m. on May 3 and at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 at 6:30 p.m. on May 5. The documentary will receive a wider release this summer.