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LCD Soundsystem, ‘Shut Up and Play the Hits’ – Movie Review

Ian Gavan, Getty Images
Ian Gavan, Getty Images

As far as I’m concerned, that whole 2000s hipster thing really took off around when the first DFA compilation was released in 2003. The epoch ended — and I think this is a tacit understanding among everybody — when the Madison Square Garden house lights came up after the final LCD Soundsystem show.

Party’s over. Straighten up, go home. That decade is a wrap. It’s done and it’s not coming back.

Now, I can’t approach anything resembling objectivity here. Not even gonna try. As far as I’m concerned, LCD Soundsystem is the best band of the new century, and no one is going to come close to their throne for a long time. For booties, no one could make people dance harder than these guys; for brains, James Murphy’s acerbic, cosmopolitan wit and anthropological eye for contemporary inanity define the era that I — and I’m assuming most of you — came of age in, for better or worse.

There’s also a critical curse at play here: placing too much distance between yourself and music, an active, conscious hesitancy to place emotional solace in the art you’re supposed to have a professional relationship with. But in spite of my best efforts, I listened to ’45:33′ to exercise off the weight I gained partying too much to their self-titled album. The title track of ‘Sound of Silver’ was music to recklessly fall in love to; years later, the entire first side of ‘This Is Happening’ swept up the pieces. In 2002, I was one of the idiot teenagers stealing Murphy’s edge; now, as an idiot adult, I see it from his side of the microphone.

Such a hollow, shallow, unproductive, spoiled, mindless movement (that, yeah, I affixed myself to pretty much the entire time) didn’t deserve such a great band.

As far as the documentary, ‘Shut Up and Play the Hits,’ itself goes? It was great.

By juxtaposing between high-energy, slick-filmed concert footage and cinema verite eavesdropping, directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace have done a fantastic job of updating the ‘Last Waltz’ conceit for the digital age and, in a a lot of ways, improved on it.

I’ve never seen a movie that so successfully took the camera onstage to capture all the inter-band idiosyncrasies, understood nods and micromanaged cues it takes to execute a nice show: capturing the intimate, unexciting communications that even people on the front row are too far away from to catch.

The underlying conversation piece has James Murphy, suited up in signature black and white and his insanely sprawling beard line etched almost to his eye sockets, delivering witty, insightful, and succinct answers to rock and cultural critic Chuck Klosterman’s esoteric, pseudo-philosophical (and, it should be said, fantastic) prompts. (Example, paraphrased: People, whether bands or athletes, are defined by their successes but remembered by their failures. What’s your biggest failure? Breaking up the band?)

The live footage is ace, acting as a teaser for the upcoming release of the entire four-hour shebang which, hopefully, will hit theaters in the same way. If you expected bursts of dancing in the aisles, you wouldn’t be let down. Here’s to hoping that the whole concert film will be shown in clubs, not movie houses.

But the best part came after the movie let out: Standing in the lobbies, under marquees, and over after movie drinks, hearing people’s stories and thoughts and — heck, I’ll say it – feelings about LCD Soundsystem. What are yours?

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