Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Directed by: William Lovelace and Dylan Southern
Synopsis: Documentary that chronicles the the week before and the day after the last LCD Soundsystem concert that took place in Madison Square garden on April 2nd, 2011.

Music/concert movies are have always been a very strange films to review in my opinion. For the most part, you have to be a fan of the band already to even consider going to the movie or have to have some form in interest in the band. Then again, the Justin Bieber movie seemed like it ended up being pretty legit and if I drink enough one day, I might see it. When I went to see the LCD Soundsystem documentary, SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS, I knew that I would be predisposed to like it. After all, they are one of my favorite bands of the last ten years, and not only that, but they put on of my all-time favorite concerts experiences. As a relatively awkward dude, I'm not the biggest dancer, but something about the lyrics and the instrumentation of LCD that made me feel like it was OK to bust some moves. What's interesting about this particular documentary is how instead of tracing the artist's rise to fame (and any potential infamy as is the case in DIG!), it chronicled the week leading up to the last LCD Soundsystem concert in Madison Square Garden last year. It's a bittersweet celebration that was encapsulated by the quote, "If it's a funeral..., let's have the best funeral ever." And I think that it ultimately succeeds as being much more than just a concert film.

Before I get into the other aspects of the movie, the set up of the movie is that band leader James Murphy decided to call it quits with LCD Soundsystem at the height of their popularity, a year after releasing their album, This is Happening. The news rocked the hipster-net like crazy, and the MSG show became one of the hottest tickets of the year, selling out almost instantly. There were accusations of celebrities such as Aziz Ansari using their connections to be able to secure their tickets. There were scalping debacles and worries that Ticketmaster was holding back tickets so they could just resell them. It was a big mess. I'm honestly glad that the movie never even gave you an indication that there was some crazy nonsense going on. But it is important to be aware of it

I want to say that I would almost recommend this movie to non-LCD fans if only because it shows the energy and the intensity that the band puts out in their performance. I think that as a big music fan, it's so interesting to see the logistics of setting up the show and looking at the little details such as how many back up singers will be sharing how many mics. And honestly, the tracks that they picked out to play during the movie are good way of keeping the "story" going and making you want to dance in your seat, which as my friend @UberGuber can attest, I was doing a whole lot of. You could even say I was dancing myself clean. For those interested, the movie's set list was "Dance Yrself Clean," "Movement," "All My Friends," "Us V. Them," "45:33" excerpt, "Sound of Silver," "Losing My Edge," "North American Scum," "Yeah," "Someone Great," "Jump Into the Fire," and "New York I Love You". So go ahead make yourself a fun mix.

There was also some very interesting editing at work during the movie. For example, the movie was basically interviews that James Murphy had with Stephen Colbert, Chuck Klusterman, and then the day after the MSG concert all edited between the aforementioned concert footage. I liked how the interviews themselves were able to tell a story more about James Murphy, the band's short but sweet history, and why the hell he would even want to end it all in the first place. The band and the concept of LCD Soundsystem has always been a fickle one. As Murphy explains it, he considers him and his bandmates the best LCD cover band since they were never supposed to take the dance project out of the studio. The band's lyrics have always dealt with a sense of dread against getting old and reaching a certain point where you're no longer relevant. As you would see, James Murphy is an older dude, and the things that come across in his lyrics are so much more interesting and strangely relatable than a lot of modern music. As I was talking to @UberGuber, the fact that we can both relate to his weirdo middle life crisis lyrics while being in our 20's is pretty interesting. I like the fact that even as early as "Losing My Edge", there was a certain emphasis in a good groove and lyrics for the band. At one point in the movie, Klusterman asks Murphy what his biggest failure is regarding the band would be, and (to paraphrase), he said that it would be whether he was breaking up for a good reason because his reason being that he wants to settle down and start a family.

Beyond the good dancing times and the cool concert footage, the movie made me really ponder about the state of modern culture as it pertains to most of us (relatively) young whippersnappers and how we deal with our own pop culture and how we perceive it in an ever rapidly fast paced environment. Seeing some of those faces in the crowd (hey, Donald Glover, and Aziz Ansari) and seeing the way that this event was being written about, I can safely say that this was this generation's Woodstock. One of those events that you HAD to be there. I know it can sound a little hyperbolic, but if you look at the history of Woodstock and its impact on pop culture, it was a big deal for sure, but how it shaped pop music for the next ten years was completely unseen. The fact that we still talk about the legendary shows put on by Jimi Hendrix, an acid-fueled Santana jam, Janis Joplin, the Who and others makes me think that we will be doing the same about James Murphy and Co. Woodstock had a little bit of everything for everyone, and it was a mess, but it has its solid place in music history.

Then you take a look at LCD Soundsystem. They're a band that's definitely famous. You don't pop up in Stephen Colbert just because of a lot of YouTube hits. But they weren't ever "mainstream", only THIS IS HAPPENING made it in the Billboard Top 10 charts, and yet you used to see the name pop up all of the time in the music blogs and sties. It's more proper to compare the band to something like Mad Men, where the critical reception and that of those on the Internet is high, but the mainstream audience is still limited. How does this compare to a band that barely existed a decade and only being famous for about half of that time?

Well, it speaks to the rise of the niche culture that has been created by the Internet. Once we figured out that we could tailor our music and movies to our very own specific tastes that, especially with music, there came to be a rise of the sub genre and sub-sub genres within music until people started making up bullshit phrases (chill wave/witch house tumblrcore) to describe them. Going back to the band, it's very easy to see exactly why most of the mainstream media has not heard of this particular band, but that their farewell show was such a big deal and sold out Madison Square Garden in minutes.

The movie itself will be a modern version of something like MONTEREY POP that was released by the Criterion Collection, or if you want to be cynical about it, you could say it was just a hipster concert show. And part of that description might be right. But to dwindle it down would be to be ignorant to the larger culture and the Internet's effect on it. But also about the insecurities of letting go of something special. Given how many artists, especially musicians who go out kicking and screaming until they're a shallow version of themselves (Ozzy, The Stones, Alice Cooper...take your pick) it's brave decision that, as can be seen, was a pretty difficult one.

I love Oscilloscope Labs for picking this movie up for distribution. Since it was only a one-night only engagement, you'll have to wait for the Blu-ray and DVD to come out which hopefully will be soon. In the meanwhile, if you want to jam out to the tracks as they appeared during the documentary, here's the Spotify playlist I created again.

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