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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shut Up and Play the Hits: Five Quick Thoughts About the LCD Soundsystem Documentary

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 9:41 AM

  • LCD at MSG

Like proper mourners of LCD Soundsystem, we went and checked out the new documentary on the band's final show at Madison Square Garden, Shut Up and Play the Hits, at its single-night-only showing yesterday. In lieu of a full review -- we have one that includes an interview with James Murphy over here -- we'd like to offer five quick reactions to the film. What did you think of it? Tell us in the comments.

1. The sound sucked.

Count us as surprised that the audio quality of the live footage was awful -- but, judging from the comments below, it seems to have just been a problem with S.F.'s Landmark Embarcadero theater. During the opening depiction of "Dance Yrself Clean," the bass was overloaded to the point of distortion, sounding like the audio was coming from microphones on the cameras instead of through the soundboard (as any pro audio feed of a live concert would be done). The problem persisted through all the footage of the MSG show -- poor mixing, distorted frequencies, etc. For a film that James Murphy executive produced (and mixed), you'd think they could have made the audio at least as good as what was streamed online.

2. Yes, of course people cried that this band is over.

The film included a few shots of fans at MSG tearing up or looking otherwise very distraught at the finale they were witnessing. In our theater, these shots were greeted by mocking laughter from the crowd. Is it like the ultimate cool-kid achievement to laugh at someone for openly feeling the way you secretly feel but are too embarrassed to express?

3. Chuck Klosterman asks smart questions very well.

From the SF Weekly review of the film, we were expecting to be annoyed by Klosterman's presence. Instead, his insightful questions made for some of Shut Up's most compelling non-concert moments, eliciting all sorts of great quotes from Murphy, including getting him to describe "Losing My Edge" as a "sad little hipster DJ Revolutionary Road."

James Murphy, human.
  • James Murphy, human.

4. Consider the erstwhile rock star image of James Murphy dismantled.

He pulls on his pants while lying down in bed. He has a possibly unhealthy interest in coffee. His hair turns gray on tour. His French bulldog is cute and needy and goes poop. Apparently the goal of Shut Up was to humanize the people behind the myth of LCD Soundsystem, and it did that ably, portraying Murphy as the reluctant frontman who wandered into his lauded position simply by following his own proclivities. He broke up LCD, the film seems to say, because he wanted to follow other proclivities. Like, y'know, coffee.

5. But consider the legend status of James Murphy/LCD Soundsystem secured.

Maybe it's more rock star to let yourself be humanized, to not hide the hangover face and double chin and ambivalence about fame. The impact of Shut Up -- beyond the great quotes from Murphy and the imagery of his regular life and the (very well-captured) footage of its farewell show -- will be its own role in the building of the myth of James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem founder, Definer of a Certain Era, figurehead of the best serious band that a sizable portion of the population lived their early adult lives through. The subject of Shut Up is exalted without explanation, the concert footage of the band the only explanation of its worth, and very little background given. That may make this film useless to future generations seeking an LCD 101, who won't have lived through the last decade for context. But Shut Up doesn't care about that, as a film. Shut Up ostensibly tries to explain why LCD came to an end when it did, but it succeeds better merely as a record of a thing that mattered a whole lot to a bunch of people at a particular point in time. There was a band for a while, and it sold out one of the most famous venues in the world for its last show, and people cried because they didn't want it to end. That's valuable enough. And if there was any question before that LCD Soundsystem will be remembered as a legendary outfit -- smart, perceptive, hugely talented with sound, emphatically human -- there won't be after this portrayal.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Ian S. Port @iPORT, and like us at

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