The demise of a band can happen for many reasons. Creative differences, funding problems or just a pesky younger brother who kicks off one too many times. Of course, sometimes you don’t need a reason, at least according to the logic of James Murphy anyway. On April 2nd, 2011, LCD Soundsystem played its final show at Madison Square Garden, after the LCD frontman made the decision to disband one of the most celebrated and influential bands of its generation at the peak of their popularity.
Shut up and Play the Hits documents the days before and after their final show, with a smattering of live performances from the four hour extravaganza of a last show. As well as looking into the setup and preparation it takes to put on a show at MSG, the film also looks into the personal life of James Murphy and why he felt obliged to end things. It’s an interesting look into the mind of a musical genius.
The songs sound incredible. ‘North American Scum’ with added Arcade Fire is a highlight and ‘New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down’ is the perfect ending to a film that is incredibly affecting, even to those who are not familiar with the band’s music. After the curtains have closed and James is left with just him and his French Bulldog sitting in his New York apartment, it’s moving to watch him try and come to terms with the new phase in his life. The scene where he is left with his old music equipment in a storage unit is tear-jerking stuff.
Of course, let’s not feel too sorry for James: he’s done alright for himself, and in an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Murphy expanded on his decision to disband LCD:
“I think it was unsustainable,” he told Fallon. “We had planned on the band being short-term, kind of like, ‘Oh, hey, I made a record.’ And somebody said, ‘Hey, will you come play with your band,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t have a band.’ So I asked my friends literally for like a weekend to go to London and play two gigs in London and one gig in Glasgow and then fly home and that was the end of it. That was 10 years ago. And then years later we’re all like, ‘This was kind of a long weekend’. It made it impossible to have a life or do other stuff. Everybody else in the band had other jobs.”
So you see it’s for the greater good… in theory. I suspect, however, judging on his reverence in the footage after the final show, that he’ll miss the rock n’ roll lifestyle he may well have taken for granted. This is, after all, the end of a band, not a career and I wouldn’t be surprised if a new James Murphy project pops up in the not so distance future.
All in all the film’s a great memoir of a band that will be sorely missed. Well worth checking out even if it does make you think, damn I should have seen them while I had the chance.
Shut Up and Play the HIts: The Final Days of LCD Soundsystem is out now on DVD