Shut Up and Play the Hits: Five Quick Thoughts About the LCD Soundsystem Documentary

Categories: Film, Last Night

Like proper mourners of LCD Soundsystem, we went and checked out the new documentary on the band's final show at Madison Square Garden, Shut Up and Play the Hits, at its single-night-only showing yesterday. In lieu of a full review -- we have one that includes an interview with James Murphy over here -- we'd like to offer five quick reactions to the film. What did you think of it? Tell us in the comments.

1. The sound sucked.
Count us as surprised that the audio quality of the live footage was awful -- but, judging from the comments below, it seems to have just been a problem with S.F.'s Landmark Embarcadero theater. During the opening depiction of "Dance Yrself Clean," the bass was overloaded to the point of distortion, sounding like the audio was coming from microphones on the cameras instead of through the soundboard (as any pro audio feed of a live concert would be done). The problem persisted through all the footage of the MSG show -- poor mixing, distorted frequencies, etc. For a film that James Murphy executive produced (and mixed), you'd think they could have made the audio at least as good as what was streamed online.

2. Yes, of course people cried that this band is over.
The film included a few shots of fans at MSG tearing up or looking otherwise very distraught at the finale they were witnessing. In our theater, these shots were greeted by mocking laughter from the crowd. Is it like the ultimate cool-kid achievement to laugh at someone for openly feeling the way you secretly feel but are too embarrassed to express?

3. Chuck Klosterman asks smart questions very well.
From the SF Weekly review of the film, we were expecting to be annoyed by Klosterman's presence. Instead, his insightful questions made for some of Shut Up's most compelling non-concert moments, eliciting all sorts of great quotes from Murphy, including getting him to describe "Losing My Edge" as a "sad little hipster DJ Revolutionary Road."

James Murphy, human.

4. Consider the erstwhile rock star image of James Murphy dismantled.
He pulls on his pants while lying down in bed. He has a possibly unhealthy interest in coffee. His hair turns gray on tour. His French bulldog is cute and needy and goes poop. Apparently the goal of Shut Up was to humanize the people behind the myth of LCD Soundsystem, and it did that ably, portraying Murphy as the reluctant frontman who wandered into his lauded position simply by following his own proclivities. He broke up LCD, the film seems to say, because he wanted to follow other proclivities. Like, y'know, coffee.

5. But consider the legend status of James Murphy/LCD Soundsystem secured.
Maybe it's more rock star to let yourself be humanized, to not hide the hangover face and double chin and ambivalence about fame. The impact of Shut Up -- beyond the great quotes from Murphy and the imagery of his regular life and the (very well-captured) footage of its farewell show -- will be its own role in the building of the myth of James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem founder, Definer of a Certain Era, figurehead of the best serious band that a sizable portion of the population lived their early adult lives through. The subject of Shut Up is exalted without explanation, the concert footage of the band the only explanation of its worth, and very little background given. That may make this film useless to future generations seeking an LCD 101, who won't have lived through the last decade for context. But Shut Up doesn't care about that, as a film. Shut Up ostensibly tries to explain why LCD came to an end when it did, but it succeeds better merely as a record of a thing that mattered a whole lot to a bunch of people at a particular point in time. There was a band for a while, and it sold out one of the most famous venues in the world for its last show, and people cried because they didn't want it to end. That's valuable enough. And if there was any question before that LCD Soundsystem will be remembered as a legendary outfit -- smart, perceptive, hugely talented with sound, emphatically human -- there won't be after this portrayal.

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I like the points made here, but I would chime in (at the risk of beating a dead horse) to say that the sound was excellent where I saw it (BAM in Brooklyn, NY) even though it was in one of their rattier, smaller theaters.  Also, a lot of people in the audience did laugh at the crying people, but I felt that while some of it was nervousness at other people's open emotions, a lot of it was just catharsis and empathy since it's how we're feeling too, if less outwardly.


I personally didn't like the sound at The Creator's Project, where I saw it.  :(  Very muffled sound, not enough of anything.  If the film is going to be put on DVD and Blu-Ray, the sound DEFINITELY needs to be completely redone.  Rip it down to the studs and just completely re-do it.  The sound nearly wrecks the film.  All audiences need to understand why a music band is being missed while playing its last shows.  

Sarah Williams
Sarah Williams

Sound was TERRIBLE at the Balboa theatre in SF. I had trouble hearing alot of the audio

Ian S. Port
Ian S. Port

Interesting comments! I'm trusting you folks on the sound and amended the piece to note that my experience was probably the theater's fault, not the film's. @withoutfurtheradude:disqus -- I don't think it's necessarily a shortcoming of the film that it isn't LCD 101. I just wanted to point out how focused it was on the this one particular event. And I suppose it's possible the audience was laughing at the crying guy affectionately, although it didn't really seem like it.

Anthony K
Anthony K

Yup, the sound problem was because of the Embarcadero. A friend went to LA's Arc Light screening and also had a great experience. It was so hard to listen to the performances marred by the theater sound system.

Gordon Elgart
Gordon Elgart

Saw this in April at the Creators Project screening, and the sound was perfect. Definitely a problem with the Embarcadero theater. Why just last night, I was there for Beasts of the Southern Wild, and the sound for that wasn't spectacular either. The theater, at this point, is a bit old and junky. Thank goodness the staff cares so much; otherwise there'd never be a reason to go there.


Yeah, I was there at Embarcadero Center; I noticed the sound was only coming out of the speakers next to the screen.  Nothing was coming out of the speakers on the side walls.  The sound was horrible.

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