Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas...


3.0
good

Review

by Adam Turner-Heffer USER (38 Reviews)
September 26th, 2007 | 25 replies


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Montreal many-piece post-rock band's transitional but flawed album.

A few months ago, something happened to me. A couple weeks before I went and did a mad thing, a mate of mine, back in town as he was off term-time from University, proudly showed me his newly purchased vinyl edition of Godspeed's climatic finale 'Yanqui U.X.O'. He said to me at the time 'This is the only Godspeed record I can really listen to properly any more.' This statement, it has to be said, confused me. 'Surely not?!' I thought. 'Not THAT record, that's the one no one likes!'. In fairness, I'd only ever heard bits and pieces of that album, so my opinions on it were misguided and misinformed at best. Then, about a day before I went away to do a mad thing, I was round another friend's house who had just purchased the aforementioned record on CD. Intrigued, I asked if I could borrow it for my trip, and he agreed. So, I listened, and was impressed. But for most of the time still never agreed with the first friend's initial, ambitious statement. Then, just as I was coming to the end of my train journey, the incredible 'Mother***er = Redeemer Part 2' swelled into my ears just as I entered the beautiful, enchanting city of Durham, with its Gothic architecture. 10 minutes later, the track came to its incredible climate, just as a storm was brewing over the city of Newcastle Upon-Tyne, the final glimpses of the sun falling, and I witnessed the incredible skyline of this city just as I crossed the river Tyne. Then, I got off the train, feeling completely overwhelmed and as a wreck of nerves, and thankfully, met the girl of my dreams. We've been happily together ever since.

The reason I told you the events of the above paragraph is to both give context and warning. Context; this is where I first noticed just how good 'Yanqui U.X.O' is and perhaps it was fitting that it was in such dramatic consequences. Warning; This also means that as a result of such a personal experience, my current opinions on the previous and much more acclaimed record 'Lift Yr. Skinny Fists...' are very much of a personal nature and you don't have to agree with them whatsoever.

The thing is, is that, without realising it, that amazing summer night in Newcastle was where I first released how actually, 'Lift Yr. Skinny Fists...' is an incredibly overrated album, in my opinion. Before that night, I enjoyed it as an album, but kinda always felt like I was giving it the benefit of the doubt because a)it was Godspeed! and b)Everyone was telling me so. Thus, since then, my opinions on this record have fallen significantly, and here's why.

The primary problem I have with this record, is that, it's unfocused. It doesn't know what it wants to be. Luckily, thanks to the miracle of Time-as-we-know-it, we can look back in retrospect at a band's full body of work. Therefore, for me, this is Godspeed's transitional album from the absolutely stunning, atmospheric, imaginative debut of 'F# A# oo' to the dramatatic, wonderful song-writing of 'Yanqui U.X.O', something this record doesn't achieve either of, nor carve out it's own personal sound. It is instead, the bridge between two far superior records, showing nothing more than evidence of their past and future directions.

It starts off brilliantly though, that I cannot deny. 'Storm' is quite possibly my favourite Godspeed song (and saves my rating of this record from being a 2.5 average). Starting off with a slow burning intro with a single guitar line, it slowly, beautifully builds and builds, adding more layers and instruments as it gathers steam, until in gorgeously swims around ears and mind, almost feeling like an epiphany through your life. Then, around the 6 minute mark, it suddenly rings out and breaks off into it's next section which almost totally starts over again, going back to a single guitar line, instruments building, and then, when it hits, its one of the most amazing listening experiences I believe that's out there. When it crashes back into action, kicked off by a thunderous snare drum, it is an absolute treasure of orchestral music, building on beautiful emotion and every single instrument being a fantastic dynamic. All this before a sudden key-change into it's final part, and then, its all over.

Brilliant, then, surely we can expect much of the same from now on then? Well, actually, no. What happens next is probably one of the most underwhelming sections to a supposedly overwhelming record and band ever. Beginning with the 'AM/PM' sample attached to the end of 'Storm' the majority of the record from now on, actually doesn't do a lot. Both 'Static' and 'Sleep' are guilty, of promising, but never really delivering. Now given these two tracks are the middle 40 plus minutes of an 80 plus album, that's pretty annoying, given the band's fantastic work to begin and close this record so well. It's just, both tracks, start off with quite haunting samples, noises and guitar/string parts, and build a tiny bit, and then drift off the initial point into a sea of meaningless and generally pointless noise that in no-way recreates the atmosphere of 'F# A# oo' because, this record is desperately trying not to be that album. It doesn't want to be the moody atmospherics of that record, but at the same time, doesn't want to lose it's 'cool' or 'mystery' by actually just writing songs, leaving this a little misguided and in the middle somewhere.

Similarly, finale 'Antennas To Heaven' is structurally, a total mess. it also starts off with some, although quite amusing samples, is just yet another pointless exercise is sampling and droning for the sake of a faux-atmosphere. Then, all of a sudden, it rather unnecessarily, explodes into a brief wall of noise. This, is another thing this album is majorly guilty of. The only technique it really uses is, LOUD-QUIET-LOUD-QUIET and in my opinion is actually more guilty of ripping off Mogwai than people accuse Mono of. To give it, it's due, as a single track 'Sleep' does this quite well, as it bothers to actually flow, but as a whole release, and here, again, on the final track, it's just repetitive and shows signs of weakness.

Interestingly though, after the brief explosion, 'Antennas...' manages to salvage something. I'm not sure what it is exactly, perhaps its drawing up some of the genuine emotion that was displayed in 'Storm', but from about 8 minutes onwards its actually very well written in that the rest of the song withholds itself from going too over the top and remains focused; even the droning, distained guitars right at the end manage to be really moving. So, it almost turns out to be a cheap shot, such a fantastic, subtle and focused ending to a record that is perhaps non of the above. However, it is a pretty good link into what would become their next and final record.

So there it is, I'm aware of the fan-ship this record gets but now that I've experienced everything I can experience from this band, right now, this to me feels like the weakest link. It gives out some fantastic ideas as shown by 'Storm', parts of 'Static' and 'Sleep' and the end of 'Antennas' but as a whole record, it is, in my eyes, inconsistent, clunky and having a personality crisis. What I can be thankful for though, is that it would mean that after writing this record, the band would go on to write a much more worthy swansong, and give me the soundtrack to a very emotional and important part of my life.



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user ratings (2690)
Chart.
4.5
superb
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Justanothernimrod
September 26th 2007


478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

there. wanted to document my recent falling out with this record and as the only other slightly negative review of this record only scratched the surface for me, I felt I should express it, while I was in the mood.

I need to go shower and go out now, I've been here all day!

Intransit
September 26th 2007


2797 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Just about every claim I've read in this review is totally off. Generally pointless noise? If anything, Sleep has the most defined climaxes and crescendos of any of the movements on here.

As for being unfocused, I can't possibly understand where you would get that from, especially after claiming that it repeats itself far too much. If it uses the same formula, wouldn't that imply that there is some sort of focus or emphasis?

And if you really want to break it down, all of GY!BE's releases use that formula barring Yanqui (which is why that record gets so much hate, because it is exceptionally lacking in dynamics).

That and there is at least one super amateurish mistake that I saw within ten seconds of looking at the review. I won't vote on this merely because I'll be accused of fanboyism, but it is certainly not a good review by any means.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
September 26th 2007


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Yanqui U.X.O.*

oh and this review isn't bad.This Message Edited On 09.26.07

Intransit
September 26th 2007


2797 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

No, wasn't that. But that is pretty goofy too.

Two-Headed Boy
September 26th 2007


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Review's not bad. Not bad at all.

Yanqui is actually very good, but this beats it at all points.

ValiumMan
September 26th 2007


493 Comments


Hmm... I sorta agree with you (the reviewer), since I like Yanqi U.X.O better as well, but I think you're treating this album a little unfair.
Your points were well argued though, and the writing was nice too.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
September 26th 2007


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Two words:
No way.

Fort23
September 26th 2007


2480 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is pretty fucking great, but still a good reivew worthey of vote. You backed your point best with

Therefore, for me, this is Godspeed's transitional album from the absolutely stunning, atmospheric, imaginative debut of 'F# A# oo' to the dramatatic, wonderful song-writing of 'Yanqui U.X.I', something this record doesn't achieve either of, nor carve out it's own personal sound. It is instead, the bridge between two far superior records, showing nothing more than evidence of their past and future directions.


Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
September 26th 2007


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Not a transitional album at all. It certainly has its own definitive identity between the two albums. Just because each ends up having something in common with it doesn't mean its some sort of transitional album. Where F#A# got a little ahead of itself and uh...well nothing was really wrong with Yanqui, I just thought this killed it. Even in its "boring" moments like "Sleep" I think this album is still incredible.

SynGates
September 26th 2007


2467 Comments


This is definitely thier best album imo. Good review though.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 26th 2007


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Disagreement.

In reference to your Interpol question, ask the mods.This Message Edited On 09.26.07

Justanothernimrod
September 26th 2007


478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

thanks for all this people.

I did warn you all though that this is probably more of a personal thing, it just, right now, doesn't do a lot for me.

The U.X.I thing is funny given I reviewed U.X.O, but just didn't look and always get them mixed up.

My only excuse here is that it was my third review in a row, so by this point I was getting a bit weary. Maybe something will change.

Doppelganger
September 26th 2007


3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5


Two words:

No way.


MeowMeow
September 26th 2007


662 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is their weakest pre-Yanqui album, but its still awesome. F#A# blows this out of the water.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
September 26th 2007


3777 Comments


It was a real damn good read and all, but it felt like you were trying to lick the boots of those who love this album and meekly 'excuse' yourself for not likening this album as much as you 'should', rather than reviewing it straight up to your opinion.This Message Edited On 09.26.07

Zebra
Moderator
September 26th 2007


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I agree with your three star rating and that this album does have some fine moments, most notably in the first and third tracks. You did a good job on this review for writing about such a popular album.
That being said I don't think that this is unfocused at all. Although there are some ridiculously dull moments (as pointed out in the review) I think that Godspeed knew what they were doing. Also, I don't think that this is a transitional album and don't see how anyone could think that this is a transitional album.

Justanothernimrod
September 27th 2007


478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Honestly Streetlight, I do agree with you a bit.

the thing is though, is that this album is 7 years old now and already has a handful of reviews on this website, nearly all positive.

thus, Sputnik was my primary and only audience for this review, so yes I was only but too aware that I was getting an unpopular view out among a group of like-minded people who will generally disagree.

And Zebra, thanks, I'd say that's fair.

Justanothernimrod
October 2nd 2007


478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Ok, I think, listening to this on the way home a show last night, that I can concede that there is more focus that I give this album credit for, but, I still find it a disappointing release because of it's dull moments, it's way of promising and never delivering and because, as I said, it neither possesses the atmosphere of 'F#...' or the brilliant song-writing of 'Yanqui'

This album just doesn't take me places like the other two do, because the majority of it just seems completely "there for the sake of it" and just leaves for a clunky and incoherent listen.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
October 2nd 2007


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

You're still wrong =D

Fort23
October 2nd 2007


2480 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm starting to like F# A# ∞ better, though thy're both beautiful. And I kind of see where Justanothernimrod is going with this, though I disagree a bit. It's definetly pretty focused, I think.



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