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


4.0
excellent

Review

by Jorn van Schaïk USER (172 Reviews)
January 31st, 2009 | 2835 replies


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Pretense and songwriting collide.

Pretense is quite a large part of music these days. Things that are over-the-top, dramatic, and theatrical in scope seem to be the new "in" thing (or were always, if we count dear KISS as pretentious). In various music scenes, pretentious music has started to become critically acclaimed; the era of three chord rock and grunge is over, and the indie scene is starting to embrace more expansive music again. Out of the indie tradition flows a genre that is however, very much based around pretense; this pretense is now termed "post-rock". And around the turn of the century, it had started to dominate the landscape of music.

One of the defining bands of the genre is and has always been Montreal's Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Coming from the Constellation records label, they ushered in a scene that features sideprojects of members from this band, and also other bands that played in similar manner using similar techniques. However, Godspeed are one of the most acclaimed of them all; not in the least this album, which has been hailed as one of the defining moments of post-rock.

Well, it IS a defining post-rock album, and let me get that out of the way first. Everything on this album is pure and true to that nature. There are the immense crescendos, the playing with volumes, the use of samples, the refusal to indulge in technical noodling and to present melodical themes that ebb and flow, there is not even such a thing as vocals on this record; everything that makes this genre what it is is present in spades. In fact, there is too much of it; the album contains a mere four tracks, but is actually a double-LP with a runtime of (gasp) eighty-seven minutes and twenty-one seconds. Three tracks clock in over 22 minutes and one nearly hits 19. There is so much music on this album it cannot even hope to be digestable in one sitting; this definitely slides under the category "grower".

However, once you give this record some time, it does unfold prettily. Suddenly melodic themes become apparent. The ending climax of "Storm", with the lone piano tinkering, is of an inhumanly beautiful nature. "Antennas to Heaven" features some wonderful themes and as soon as you think you have gazed into its depths, the noise dies away and slowly lets you drift on a haze towards another melodic theme. Some people might compare it unfavourably to a light switch flipping on and off; other people will just call it a beautiful laser show. The truth is that the second is probably closer to the truth, because most of the actually used melodic themes are very interesting and remain hypnotic till the very end.

The only problem is some people might not endure the ambient moments or the sampling, when nothing really exists and it is like the blank scenes of a movie (the bits where things fade out and stars appear and galaxies start swirling). There are definitely moments on "Sleep" which could have been cut without losing an ounce of the impact of the record; 87 minutes could have been less and the album would still have remained as brilliant as it is to this day. With pretense usually comes this bloated approach, so it is of course, a part of the territory; but to the experienced listener this may be a turn off.

The truth is that it is not pretense that drives this record to its soaring climaxes. It is not merely the will to create a work of art that at times seems jumbled and fragmented, so as to appear incoherent; yet upon observing the shards of the glass mosaic, one sees a prettier reflection of themselves in the mirror. It is truly the mirror that reflects beauty and purity, and even anger and sadness, or perhaps even mediocrity; that is really the quality of this album. It may sound, at the risk of being redundant, pretentious, but often post-rock is a mirror of the world and a companion to people walking it; and those that walk in the companionship of this album should definitely not find themselves depressed. Because as overblown as it is, it is and remains an excellent record; and a worthy check for anyone into the genre.



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user ratings (2701)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Minus The Flair
Emeritus
January 31st 2009


862 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Best album ever. Sometimes I get the feeling that it is bloated and could be shorter but then I put it on and feel stupid. Interesting thoughts anyway, I like those analogies.

Poet
January 31st 2009


5935 Comments


Still don't know why I haven't heard this yet. Maybe because I am retarded...oh yeah I am.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
January 31st 2009


7025 Comments


Good review, even though your last paragraph was ironically pretentious.
This album took a while to grow on me but now I really love it.

robin
Emeritus
January 31st 2009


4261 Comments


my opinions pretty similar to yours, didn't see much mention of static though, which is pretty much deemed the worst/most bloated piece on here. i personally love it. good stuff.

IAmInsect
January 31st 2009


3799 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album rules, have you heard f#a#∞? it dwarfs this.

ClearTheLane
January 31st 2009


990 Comments


There are definitely moments on "Sleep" which could have been cut without losing an ounce of the impact of the record
You don't mean the interview with an old man about Coney Island, do you?!
Good review anyways..

ninjuice
January 31st 2009


6760 Comments


I need to hear F#A#infinity and this more to decide which deserves a 5. I agree this could be shorter now, but I might agree with Minus the Flair upon repeated listens.

Fugue
January 31st 2009


7354 Comments


I so need to get this, awesome review by the way.

Knott-
Emeritus
January 31st 2009


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

lol Minus The Flair i clicked this review of saying that exact same thing myself:

Best album ever.

I don't remember any of it right now but all I do know is every time I put it on it transports me a long way away and I don't like when it ends.

It's simply phenomenal.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 31st 2009


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Best album ever.



I don't remember any of it right now


:rolleyes:

Knott-
Emeritus
January 31st 2009


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Ha.
I know it sounds weird but it's true.
I obviously remember some of the general themes and ideas it contains, but what I mean is, it's not the kind of thing I can recall in any detail, unlike All Is Violent, All Is Bright, which I can pretty much play all the way through in my head, you know? I guess I'm worried if I overplay it it will lose its value but right now it serves as the perfect antidote when I need to FEEL something, when I've had a pointless or boring day...
It genuinely is one of the best albums ever. It takes some fucking love of an album to say that.

Knott-
Emeritus
January 31st 2009


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

For that matter it's the only album that's ever made me cry.
Go figure

robin
Emeritus
January 31st 2009


4261 Comments


i think what altmer speaks about in the review (this being bloated) is why slow riot is so much better. condensed and easier to replay. this is probably of the same quality but i just cant listen to it as much.

Duderino
January 31st 2009


828 Comments


"pretentious" is probably the single most used word on this site

TricksterGRex
January 31st 2009


2087 Comments


It's just so damn fun to say.

withintention
January 31st 2009


297 Comments


no, Opeth is

Mendigo
January 31st 2009


2299 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

only mistake is that you've messed up with the overall rating, apart from that: great review

rasputin
January 31st 2009


14555 Comments


"pretentious" is probably the single most used word on this site

Ironic, isn't it? :D

Phantom
January 31st 2009


8930 Comments


Nice review.

Where do I start with these guys? cause I know I'm missing out and really want to get going.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 31st 2009


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

here's good, or slow riot for new zero kanada



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