This was bound to happen.
From the early days, I fucking loved LCD Soundsystem. It was a right sound, right place, right time thing for me. I was one of the music nerds who remembers when losing my edge was a single from this album of a DJ or something that I hadn’t heard of (cause I didn’t fucking live in New York). God it was funny. Had a mad groove. Totally encapsulated hipster culture in a way no one else had done.
And I followed it through the whole thing. LCD Soundsytem was the band I recommended to everyone. It was a band that I felt was impossible to hate. An amazing dance sound. Songs about how stupid hipster shit was. And EVERY RECORD was fucking slamming, all the way through.
Then one day. James Murphy said he was going to end it. It felt both like it couldn’t happen and was inevitable at the sametime. If you would have asked me in the late 2000s/early 2010s what my favorite band right now was, I would have said LCD Soundsystem.
And yet……what was at that point their last record, it felt…like a centrifuge coming apart. It was a PHENOMENAL record. But, it really felt sort of like Beatles’ Abbey Road. Something is falling apart there.
So, that gets us to this. Shut Up and Play the Hits. The documentary of that last show.
It is abundantly clear that the filmmakers here were going for this generation’s The Last Waltz.
As that..it….doesn’t quite make it there. The film itself is a crosscut from the Madison Square Garden concert between an interview between James and Chuck Klosterman.
On paper, this is a great idea. And I went through my own big Klosterman phase. The hipster generation’s writer with the hipster generation’s front man. And Klosterman asks some good questions.
But really, everything with them together completely falls flat. I dont know if James Murphy doesn’t have the ability to be introspective, but all of the answers feel pretty fake. Except this one exchange where Klosterman asks about the fact as a rock musician you don’t want to go get old. And James gives a very direct answer about feeling like his life is passing in front of him while he’s on tour. I still think this show and the breakup is James’ midlife crisis (more on this later), even though you could argue the whole band is a midlife crisis.
Anyway, apart from that one answer, all the questions fall flat.
But the concert…..Ill go into the music in the next part. Its just fucking electric. They shot the shit out of this goddamn thing.
The band is goddamn tight. Every single member of that band is a fucking incredible musician and the film is just like electricity. My first reaction when I saw this film was I wish to fuck I was there. And you know what. I still feel the same. The cinematography and editing is strong.
Everything here involving coverage of the live show is phenomenal. Its just everything else.
Whatever is there thats not the interview is James wallowing in indecision and wishy-washy. He’s basically Charlie Brown throughout this whole fucking thing.
In a way it brings realness, but through a current context its like….motherfucker get out of your head (more on this later). You had it dog. You fucking had the best shit in the world.
But it is what it is. And we are left with the film. A film in which its clear none of the band members want to break up except James (in that way and the live performances alone, its basically The Last Waltz).
The Blu-Ray has the full concert, edited. That should have been the film.
3/4 – This should be perfect, but I think living through James’ ennui sucks.
K, spoiler alert: its a fucking masterpiece. God damn this is a bad ass concert.
The one thing you could always say of LCD Soundsystem leading up to this concert, James is an anal retentive dude. And it shows in the sound quality. The band is tighter than I think any band touring right now is. They had some kind of electricity here.
I think electronic music has spread out into far too many fiefdoms. It’s like everyone has to have their own little world. There should just be one electronic grouping. If you are a DJ, and you make electronic music, and its not as fucking good as what LCD Soundsystem was doing in the golden era, why bother.
I never liked the James Murphy/David Byrne comparison. Byrne is a prophet. Murphy just could see through the lens of the current era and explain it. And all of his songwriting does that. For reference, thats not a slam. Most people can’t do that at all. I looked to the man for insight, and he fucking had it in spades.
I have heaped praise on the band, and they are playing like its the end of the world. They really are hitting the shit. Got damn.
4/4 – I don’t know what else to say. This record is a masterpiece.
Which brings us to the unfortunate Coda to this review. They got back together 5 years later, and people lost their fucking minds. Basically accusing LCD Soundsystem and James of being money grubbing assholes. And they cut a real REAL mediocre follow up record after all of this.
There is a big cadre of internet assholes who really believe this tarnishes the whole legacy of the band.
In a way I agree, in a way I don’t. Whats created is created.
Whatever James does from here on out CANNOT make the long goodbye suck. Period.
That being said. When this film and album came out, I really thought people would treat this with the reverence The Last Waltz has. There would be cover shows playing the set list and what not.
The window for that never happened cause they fucking got back together less than 5 years later.
I think James wanted to stop. I really think the death and rebirth of LCD Soundsystem is his actual midlife crisis. I think he felt shitty (physically) for a number of years and wanted to stop. I don’t think he realized he could just as easily go on haitus.
The music itch came back to him at some point, and he recorded new stuff. Did they throw LCD Soundsystem on it because it would make the band more money? Absolutely. I do not fault them for that.
It just makes me a little sad. I wish this show did have that reverence. It never will. LCD Soundsystem could come out with 50 new records, and I think people will let this fall to the annals of history.
But, we will always have the music, and thats what counts.