Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Shut Up and Play the Hits (2012) - Will Lovelace & Dylan Southern

Aces documentary charting the day leading up to and coming down from LCD Soundsystem's farewell concert at New York's Madison Square Garden on April 2nd 2011. It's a show I'd love to have been at but for various reasons (most of them involving a complete lack of funds, and the rest having to do with living 4,000 miles from N.Y.), I wasn't able to attend. So this documentary has quite a bit to deliver for all those fans that are in the same boat as me. Thankfully it does and then some (the DVD having the whole concert spread across two discs as an 'extra'). I'd say right off the bat that you need to be a fan of LCD Soundsystem to get anything from this. This is a documentary in the very real sense of the word, documenting a moment in time. If you are already a fan then prepare yourself for a treat, not only do we get selected highlights from the 3 ½ hour show, but also receive a behind the scenes look at life in the center of the hurricane, all interspersed with an interview with LCD frontman James Murphy.

It works really well, and we gain a small but significant insight into why Murphy feels that putting LCD Soundsystem to sleep at the height of their fame is the right thing to do. Let's face it, in an age where bands are more and more reluctant to call it day, even when they are well past their prime, it is supremely refreshing to see someone do the right thing and draw the curtains before things become boring. Just imagine how cool New Order would be if they'd stopped after Technique, even The Clash try to airbrush out the embarrassment of their final Cut the Crap LP from history in order to look like they went out on a high, rather than the awkward whimper that they actually left the music world with. But anyway I'm getting sidetracked…

There are poignant moments such as Murphy talking about his heroes (Lou Reed and Bowie seem to be the two that crop up over and over), and how he perceived them as a teenager as being something untouchable, almost beyond human in the way that people tend to think of celebrities in general. What co-directors Lovelace and Southern manage so well is to show the mundanity of Murphy's life, how he just like normal folks, wakes up and checks his phone, drinks coffee, meets friends and walks his dog. It's this juxtaposition between the everyday and the jaw dropping hugeness of the gig that really does the trick for me.

Obviously the documentary this reminded me off most was The Band's swan song - The Last Waltz. Just like that farewell concert famous friends drop by to lend a hand, so we get Arcade Fire, Planningtorock, Reggie Watts as well as a band consisting of Gavin Russom (The Crystal Ark), Nancy Whang (The Juan MacLean) and Al Doyle (Hot Chip). Al Doyle is particularly watchable, leaping about and playing just about any instrument that is thrust in front of him, so as well as the usual guitar, bass and keyboards he also plays a stack of percussion and even at one point a trumpet. The band are in great form, and whip through some choice cuts - North American Scum, Dance Yrself Clean, Someone Great, Losing My Edge and the highlight for me - All My Friends. "To tell the truth, this could be the last time."

At no point does this ever feel like a funeral, there are tears, but they come mostly at the end and that's understandable since it is just that - THE END. It'll take years before people realise that what James Murphy did was not only brave but also essential. I'm convinced that LCD Soundsystem's stock will rise and rise with time. Something that might not have happened had their next album been a patchy effort, or a contract filling live album. Having said that though I'd love to have seen them live just one last time. Still I'll always have the records and now I have this film too. The king is dead, long live the king.

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