I can’t tell you what I was expecting from “Shut Up and Play the Hits” aside from an hour and a half of amazing concert footage, ogling at James Murphy’s beard and clinging to every word he spoke. It’s safe to say that like many others LCD Soundsystem and frontman James Murphy made an impact on my life musically. So, upon hearing that there’d be a documentary about the final days of LCDSS including their last live show at Madison Square Garden, I made sure I had tickets to the one and only showing.
Keeping my expectations relatively low and looking forward to watching the songs from their last show that I had missed, it wouldn’t be until the documentary was over that I realized I wanted more from it. It’s not that I was disappointed by the documentary, it was great. I loved feeling like I had a headache watching the musicians scramble before going on at Madison Square Garden, waking up with James Murphy the morning after and watching him walk his adorable French bull dog named Petunia, and I wanted to cry when he cried standing in the storage room holding the LCDSS equipment and instruments that wouldn’t be touched for months, maybe years. The interview with Chuck Kolsterman acted as a good narrative between clips of before, during, and after their final show. But it wasn’t until Kolsterman’s final question of, “What is your biggest failure?”, did I realize that I hadn’t learned much more about LCDSS that I didn’t already know. James Murphy’s been in the spotlight of interviews -at least as much of a spotlight that he’ll allow- that there wasn’t much more he could say about the ending of LCDSS, about what he wants to do after, about how he started dj-ing, or how he started DFA Records; it’s not that I’m tired of hearing the answers, but it made me wonder: What about the rest of the band? Yes, James Murphy is the frontman, but he’s also been backed by, recorded with, and played live with great artists live like Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney, and Tyler Pope. There was no interview with them, let alone any dialogue from them about how excited/nervous/sad they were for the last show ever. And I know James Murphy would agree when I say that they are major figures in disco and dance music today, just as he is. It was the end of an era for all of them, but where were their thoughts and feelings?
Although the movie wasn’t James Murphy’s idea, it was presented as a documentary about the band. Which is not to say that he doesn’t deserve a documentary, but his bandmates are equally as involved in the same music scene and with the DFA label as well, and deserve more recognition (I must also mention that many previous interviews conducted with Whang and Mahoney are rather mundane and barely scratch the surface of the depth that the questions Murphy is prompted with). Aside from hearing how much the band means to James Murphy, I want to know how excited they were to be part of a band that’s influenced and inspired other artists, and more importantly how it impacted their lives. Hell, even Reggie Watts played their final show, I’d love to hear his thoughts on the band and how thankful he was to be a part of it, as well as the side projects he’s worked on with fellow DFA label-mates. My biggest fear is that without interviewing fellow LCDSS bandmates their impact on the music recorded and performed will remain unknown, and their stories will go untold.
I’m hopeful that, sooner than later, fellow LCDSS fans will do their research and realize how involved and important each member of the band is, and a greater demand for information on them will arise. Despite my minor issues with the documentary, I’m excited to re-watch it again and again. I’ll probably end up using the live concert footage as the background music for my next party. The documentary doesn’t take away from the importance or greatness of LCDSS, but narratives from the people who help put LCDSS together for about a decade wouldn’t have been a bad idea either.