In February 2011, the popular and critically acclaimed electronica dance band LCD Soundsystem made it known via its website that they would play their last show ever at Madison Square Garden that April. There were no creative differences. There was no drug-fueled tailspin. Bandleader James Murphy simply wanted out, even as the band was still going strong and picking up fame and fans. And so it was coming to an end.
Documentarians had the presence of mind to follow Murphy around a few days before and after the “funeral.” The result was Shut Up and Play the Hits, which played for one night only (!) in theaters across America on July 18 following a successful screening at Sundance.
James Murphy looks nothing like a rock star. He looks like a guy who’d wake up at two in the afternoon, eat some Trix and not realize they’re Cheetos until he’s drained the milk from the bowl. In the film he slept in the tuxedo he performed in then wore it the entire next day (okay, that was typical rock star) as he tooled around the house and ran errands with his French bulldog, Petunia, in tow.
In a way, his schlubbiness makes his decision to quit without a next project in mind even more shocking. One would think that if you had had the good fortune to look like that and get famous anyway through sheer talent, you’d keep it going as long as possible.
He gets that. His song, “Losing My Edge,” is a huge hipster joke (“I was there in 1968” sings a guy who was born in 1970). It’s also an acknowledgement of the hipster’s dread fear that all of that carefully curated superiority has an expiration date.
Our days of relevance are numbered. We need a Plan B.
In his interview with Chuck Klosterman, recorded a week before the final concert and used as narration throughout the film, Murphy says that he was 38 then he “blinked” and was 41. He didn’t want to blink again and find that he’s 50 and still in the band without having lived the life he wanted: having kids, for example. Shortly thereafter, he bursts into tears when he goes to the warehouse where his equipment is being stored until it can be sold off. He’s worried he made the biggest mistake of his life, leaving it all behind.
Murphy’s Plan B is to be more like us parents sitting in the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, grateful that we could get away to see a movie on a Wednesday night … while our Plan B is to sell out Madison Square Garden, looking as we do and saying what we want, being the artists we all dream we are destined to be just given the chance.
I wish us all luck.
See you on the flip side …