Two nights ago, DDR was at the premiere of the LCD Soundsystem documentary/concert film “Shut Up and Play the Hits.”
First off, it felt a little odd to see the film at the Landmark Cinemas at Kendall Square in Cambridge. It was the kind of film you should see in a gourmet coffee shop, with an old projector and “All My Friends” (fun fact: James Murphy has plans to open such a place in the building that he recently purchased—we’re not sure about the films part, though, so maybe he’ll see this post and think it’s a good idea).
For me, personally, the film conjured up nostalgic feelings of when I lived in Williamsburg (hint for James Murphy stalkers: his place is located somewhere near Havemeyer St. on the Williamsburg/Greenpoint line). I got goose bumps when, in the film, Murphy gets a in a cab after the show at Madison Square Garden to go back home–and he has to tell the cabbie (three times) that he lives off the Williamsburg bridge; because if you lived there before the place blew up, you’d know that cabbies hardly knew what Williamsburg was, let along how to get there or get back to Manhattan from there.
The film was a skillful blend of documentary and concert film, following Murphy from center stage to his humble abode, where he awakens with his French Bulldog drooling on his scruffy face. It was a unique insider view into Murphy’s private life and how the “end” of LCD impacted him personally. And for someone like Murphy, who (somewhat admittedly) hides behind his coolness via sunglasses and faux pretentiousness, it was a rare treat to see inside his heart and mind—even if it was via a pigeon hole that the film’s director and the narrator/interviewer Chuck Klosterman were able to forge.
The backstage clips in the film are priceless, because you get to see Murphy serve as the conductor and circus leader, orchestrating details such as where the microphones are going to be placed for their guest singers, Arcade Fire, who join them on stage for “North American Scum.” The film has a “The Last Waltz” feel all over it, and the cherries on top are not only the bird’s eye view into Murphy’s heart but, like the classic film of mention, the guest appearances and unforgettable live performances. Dare we say, “Shut Up and Play the Hits” is our generation’s “Last Waltz.”
Via the film, you get to see first-hand the high wave that LCD has ridden to the top of the indie rock heap—and you get to see Murphy enjoy the crest for a little bit. But, in all of his business sense/branding wisdom—or his over-emotional fear of holding onto something too tightly (it’s hard to tell where the line between the two is)—he knows when to step off the ride, and that’s right at the top. It’s a “quit while you’re ahead” move—or is it? Because when you see Murphy (spoiler alert!) standing alone in the LCD equipment room at the end of the film and he starts to cry, you can’t help but wonder—did he just throw himself the best going away party (ever) in NYC? Or did he just make the biggest mistake of his life by stopping what could have been The Greatest [Indie] Show on Earth?
Either way, the curtain is closed—and (yet again) Murphy has masterfully managed to immortalize himself as the coolest elder indie rocker that ever was. The “end” of LCD was like a controlled explosion. And that’s just the way Murphy wanted it. So don’t cry over your turntable. Put on a pair of your coolest hipster sunglasses and enjoy the nostalgia of the little indie band that could—while it’s still trendy to like that kind of stuff.