Less of a documentary and more of a document, "Shut Up And Play The Hits" captures the week before, the day after and the very occasion of LCD Soundsystem’s Madison Square Garden farewell concert on April 2, 2011.
For the unaware, LCD Soundsystem was a Grammy-nominated electro-dance-rock outfit headed up by James Murphy, a frontman who opted to end their relatively successful ten-year run with said MSG blowout. Those looking for a full-bore origin story on the band won’t find it here – no scrappy rise to fame, no tragic overdoses, and the fellow band members hardly even speak – yet it is clearly a conscious effort by directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern (Blur doc "No Distance Left To Run") to emphasize the ephemeral nature of the event. 'Shut Up' could be about anyone, any band, any artist coming to terms with their success and finding themselves on the verge of willful retirement – a miraculous sort of agony if ever there was one.
The film opens with an unattributed quote: “If it’s a funeral, let’s have the best funeral ever.” Soundsystem certainly aimed high over the course of nearly four hours that night, having been joined on stage for “All My Friends” and other songs by the likes of Reggie Watts and Arcade Fire (lead singer Win Butler shouts out the film’s rather brilliant title). A massive mirrorball descends from the ceiling and shines a million brilliant points of light across a tireless crowd, and balloons upon balloon drop as Murphy cries out the final notes of the impossibly fitting final song, “New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down.” It’s ecstasy over eulogy, and a palpable sensation at that. And then, the next day comes, Murphy finds the DFA offices empty and goes about cleaning the espresso machine himself as if nothing’s the matter, as if the night before wasn’t a tremendous culmination of a career.
Murphy’s dilemma about going out on top should translate even to newcomers, though they may not get the full impact of the band’s appeal and how difficult a decision this must have been for him, as it would be for anyone in that improbable position. However, for fans of the late LCD Soundsystem, this is something of a great release. [A-]