The journalist John Strausbaugh, formerly the editor of New York Press, wrote a book in the early 2000s called “Rock ‘Til You Drop,” which argued that, essentially, there should be a mandatory retirement age for rock stars. Rock ‘n’ roll, he argued, was inherently about youth and rebellion, and it was ridiculous for senior citizens like the Rolling Stones and The Who to continue touring based on songs they wrote decades earlier.
Strausbaugh would likely have approved of “Shut Up and Play the Hits,” a documentary released earlier this year about the band LCD Soundsystem and its final concert in 2011. The film, directed by Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace, intercuts the concert footage with the band’s frontman, James Murphy, explaining to journalist Chuck Klosterman his decision to call it quits at the age of 41.
Murphy explains on camera that he had a life as an adult before the band came together, and wishes to have one again once it splits up. We can at least give Murphy credit for sticking with his retirement pledge. There was a concert film a few years ago, “Fade to Black,” about Jay-Z’s “final concert” at MSG prior to his “retirement”; by the time the movie was released, HOVA had already come out of retirement and resumed performing.
Murphy, who more resembles, well, Chuck Klosterman than most people’s idea of a rock star, is an intriguing protagonist, even if he doesn’t have the most charismatic stage presence.
‘m far from intimately familiar with LCD Soundsystem’s music. I’ve always been aware of it and enjoyed some of it over the years, but I’ve never bought one of their albums or seen them live. That said, the concert scenes are well-staged and demonstrate a clear connection between the group and its fans. I also loved the group’s use of the Twin Peaks theme as the intro for one of the last songs.
The film was released for one night only in a few cities in July, before coming out on DVD and Blu-ray this month. It’s recommended especially if you’re a devotee of LCD Soundsystem, but also if you’re fascinated in the musical process, or in the one rock star who seemed to find the right time to walk away.