While that morning-after footage acts as the beating heart of the film, and the pulsing energy of the concert footage provides interstitial forward momentum, the objective-focused brain of Shut Up and Play the Hits is represented by the extended interview between Murphy and pop-culture essayist Chuck Klosterman. These sequences (which re-enact, almost verbatim, an interview Klosterman did with Murphy a year earlier) form the sturdy and well-organized frame around which the rest of the film is grounded. Functionally, it’s a kind of “interview as performance,” but Klosterman’s well-thought out questions prompt Murphy into topics like accusations of pretension ("Even if you read Gravity's Rainbow out of pretension, you still read Gravity's Rainbow"), his feelings on perceived fame ("I don't want to be a famous person"), and why he’s deciding to hang it up after three albums ("Life is a big reason”).
It’s interesting to revisit this film with the knowledge that James Murphy would eventually get the band back together to take on 2016’s summer festival circuit. When asked by Klosterman what the biggest failure of the band was, a week before that Madison Square Garden show, Murphy reveals a pretty big crack in his resolve when he confides that breaking the band up too early might be that thing he’s going to regret. While the shows last weekend at Webster Hall officially brought an end to LCD Soundsystem’s self-imposed five-year hiatus and taking a bit of the punch out of Shut Up and Play the Hits, it still stands up as an incredible document of a guy wrestling with his decision to stop doing something he loves, however momentary it might have ended up being.
Chris Lay is a freelance writer, archivist, and record store clerk living in Madison, WI. The very first CD he bought for himself was the Dumb & Dumber soundtrack when he was twelve and things only got better from there.
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