Review Summary: The Canadian legends leave us in a shroud of controversy.
Looking back through music’s evolution in the last sixty years, one can pick out many notable bands that have offered an album at some point in their career that seemingly divided critics and fans alike nearly in two. Whether by incorporation of a new format, direction, or in some of the more disappointing cases, an unusually lackluster collection of songs, consistently good bands often deviate from a winning formula for reasons of integrity, branching out, or even mere boredom. As has proven to be the case with albums such as Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door
, The Beatles’ Let It Be
, The Eagles’ The Long Run
, Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock
or more recently, Blink-182’s self-titled, these albums typically mark the end of the band’s career at that point in time, even if these different
albums happen to be met positively upon reception. Transitional albums can also be a point in a band’s career in which they spring and build momentum from, that in retrospect, proves to have been a vital turn that was instrumental in what the band has now become (e.g. Radiohead’s Ok Computer
and Kid A
or The Beatles’ Rubber Soul
The final release from Canadian post-rock staple, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, proves to be a transitional album of the former variety. Here the band offer many changes, the most obvious of which is their name change (from Godspeed You Black Emperor!
, to the present, Godspeed You!
Black Emperor), a more active political agenda, and in areas of their sound via removal of the band’s famous spoken interludes and the inclusion of a more polar landscape of sounds within the actual music. Yanqui U.X.O.
is also the first album to be recorded outside of the band’s country of Canada and also includes producer Steve Albani at the helm.
is quite a varied and somewhat disjointed listen, which in turn, immediately contrasts the band’s more cohesive famous offerings. The first section of “9-15-00” amounts to a collection of jingles and echoing ambient effects before a build-up of strings delivers two climatic collisions that please the ear, if not coming without surprise. The second half of the track is more or less the “aftermath” of the two climaxes, comprising to be no more than distant ambience with a few jingles and guitar tones included for good measure. The new sounds that the band offers here are certainly welcome, but the cohesive nature of Lift Your Skinny Fists…
is notably missing.
“Rockets Fall On Rockets Fall” and “Motherf**ker=Redeemer” continues the trend of ambient broodings that precede musical collisions that comprise of strings, guitars, and drum cymbals. While nothing is admittedly terrible or disappointing here, it is worth mentioning that a few sections seem disjointed and out of place. “Rockets Fall On Rockets Fall” spikes early in the twenty-plus minute track length before residing to sputter and stew for the remainder of the time. An odd skipping
sound is played around the fourteen-minute mark that upon first listen, had me repeatedly checking my earphones to see if there was a short in the wiring. The first section of “Motherf**cker=Redeemer” continues in much the same vein as the prior track, which given the fact that it is another twenty-minute opus, may prove to be good or bad depending on the listener’s experience with this album up until this point. The second section of “Mother…” finishes out the album on a good note, offering a quick build-up that escalates and swells for the majority of track. The album ends abruptly, leaving the listener the job of assessing what it is exactly they have just taken in.
Actual sound timbre aside, a vital characteristic of post-rock has to deal with the actual feelings or emotions that the album encompasses the listener within upon listening. Bands in this respective genre want to instill another world within the confines of their songs that can seemingly transport the listener away into a realm where time and life’s intricacies surmise to be no more than a mere echo in eternity. Godspeed You! Black Emperor achieved this well-sought-after characteristic in past albums. However, with Yanqui U.X.O.
this seems to be missing and as such, could prove to be the band’s only slip in their stellar career. All political conspiracies aside, therein lies the sum of Yanqui U.X.O.’s
controversy. When expectations are this high for a band, anything less than perfection is disappointing no matter how great the album turns out to be and will likewise, raise questions and divide fans and critics of the band nearly in two.