Vivid Sydney: Shut Up and Play the Hits

I think LCD Soundsystem were one of the greatest bands of the last decade. And by “band” I mean largely the creation of one James Murphy, a guy who decided – in his 30s, after messing around in punk bunds – to record an album of danceable electro-rock that he liked and to eschew the rock star bullshit. He became more successful than he imagined, formed a band to play live, recorded two more critically-acclaimed albums, and toured some more.

And then, at 41, he called it quits. He broke up LCD Soundsystem at the undeniable peak of their powers, choosing not to fade out or become lame. I’m glad I got to see them play live before that happened.

The film I just saw at the Sydney Opera House, and my final Vivid Sydney Festival event, was a documentary, concert film, and memoir of LCD Soundsystem’s last week as the band, their big final show in New York, and the day after. Shut Up and Play the Hits was very good: it gave us a few great songs from that 4-hour finale, some interview probing of James Murphy and his feelings and doubts and thoughts on ageing, and some truly funny frozen moments on the faces of crowd-goers.

The photography was dynamic and immersive. The sound – mixed by Murphy – was dramatic. It was a fitting goodbye to a great thing.

Tonight was the Australian premiere of this film. LCD Soundsystem’s drummer, Pat Mahoney, was in the crowd and had a Q&A with a radio DJ after the film, but the questions were pretty lame.

It will show in US cinemas for one night in July. You’ll probably be able to catch in other ways soon.

LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip at the Hordern Pavilion

I saw LCD Soundsystem last night, and they were really cool. James Murphy claims this is the end of his project as a touring entity; if that’s true I’m glad I got to see them.

I caught the last half of openers Hot Chip. I saw them open for Goldfrapp once upon a time. They’ve become a little more robust since then, and their nerd-dance sound was good hype music.

But it was LCD Soundsystem that I was excited about, and they didn’t disappoint me. Song after song of what I can only describe as euphoria-punkhit the room in our collective funny-bone, producing non-stop dance spasms. The raucous songs like “Drunk Girls” and “Movement” got us jumping. The extended tripfests of opener “Us v Them” and mainset closer “Yeah” performed effective mass hypnosis (or hip-nosis) on us. The real surprise for me was how funked-up “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” turned out to be live: it was a scorcher.

Murphy’s voice sounded much better than I expected, too. Choosing “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” as a closer was a bit of a surprise to me, but it did showcase that his pipes – while not diva-level – are better than past YouTube vids had led me to believe.

I honestly think that LCD is one of the best examples of a truly fun, influence-integrating, forward-looking, organic/synthetic-balanced, original music act today. I’m actually relieved that they were so good live. They have, in the words of another performer that’s perhaps slightly more famous, justified my love.

LCD Soundsystem + Hot Chip

I haven’t been to too many gigs lately. Perhaps it’s the cooling seasons, or perhaps I’m busy exploring other bits of Australian life. I’ll rectify that sooner or later, though.

Sooner, actually. I got tickets yesterday for LCD Soundsystem (on what James Murphy is claiming to be that act’s swan song) and Hot Chip in July. That promises to be a pretty tasty double feature.

Listen to the new LCD Soundsystem album

The forthcoming album from James Murphy’s offbeat electro-dance-rock group LCD Soundsystem is called This Is Happening. NPR radio in the US is streaming the entire forthcoming album: listen to it here.

I’m a big fan of all previous things LCD, and this album is no different. It’s lo-fi but futuristic. It’s hilarious funny and deeply weird. It’s impossibly catchy and annoyingly self-aware. It’s repetitive and it’s innovative. This Is Happeningalso sounds a bit more retro New Wave compared to the other albums. And Murphy’s voice seems to have deepened and broadened a bit. It’s really, really good.

Listen above, and if you agree with me buy the album when it’s released on May 18.