Review Summary: Lift Your Skinny Fists for Dummies.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor have quite the cult following. Fans will gather and distribute any type of recording they can get their post-rocky hands on, sometimes even mastering recordings themselves. Godspeed's lenient stance on cameras and recording devices at their shows contribute largely to the amount of fan-made bootlegs out for the masses to consume. However not all of these rare recordings are done behind the band's back; in fact the live session recorded for the legendary BBC DJ John Peel may be among the best recordings of the band.
John Peel used to run a radio program on BBC Radio 1 in which artists, both mainstream and obscure, would pass by to deliver a live studio session. Most of the time the band would record 4 tracks off their latest album for promotion of that album or tour. When Godspeed dropped by Mr. Peel's famed studio in 1999 the 9 man collective recorded only one track, 'Hungover As The Queen at Maida Vale.' The three movement epic was recorded in between the releases of the band's 1998 apocalyptic debut F#A#∞
and the 2000 double disc masterpiece Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
. As expected, the band chose to play 2 movements off the upcoming Skinny Fists
(Movement ii of 'Sleep' - 'Monheim' and Movement iii of 'Static' - 'Chart #3') and one unreleased movement entitled 'Steve Reich' (named after the composer of the same name.) All three movements are squished into one long track that clocks in at just under 20 minutes. Even with three completely different movements Godspeed manages to bring them all together for one near-perfect display of post-rock prowess.
Avid fans of Skinny Fists
will immediately recognize the soft strums of electric guitar that starts off the session. The memorable second movement that follows the speech "They don't sleep anymore on the beach..." was the perfect choice to begin the performance. Godspeed play nearly note for note, making the live recording nearly indistinguishable from the studio recording. While that may seem like a bad thing to many, it shows Godspeeds undeniable talent in musicianship. What may seem impossible to recreate Godspeed does with ease and splendor. Those with a sharp ear for music will be able to pick out each individual instrument much easier than the studio recording, giving the live session just a small pinch more attitude and timbre. Not only did Godspeed bring along enough instruments to fill out a small orchestra, they brought their tape player as well. One of the most moving samples the band has used, 'Chart #3,' links the two instrumental movements together. The same crazed preacher lecturing on admittance to heaven and religious awakenings spills his guts bleeding into to the final movement 'Steve Reich.' A never before heard track akin more to Side B F#
than Skinny Fists
is a short 5 minute loop of a melody that disassembles as it progresses. Starting with tympani, guitar, piano, violin and cello and slowly dropping an instrument one by one, the track ends only on the chilling notes from the piano.
Followers of the Cult of Godspeed should be very familiar with this piece by now, but for those who have yet to divuldge deeper into the wide world of Godspeed rarities will be pleased to hear this one and only official recording of the band. Just like Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada
this recording is short and to the point. When tackling the task of listening to Skinny Fists
is more than one can handle, the listener might choose this cliffnotes version of it instead. The inclusion of unreleased movement 'Steve Reich' would be enough for any fan of Godspeed to check out the John Peel session, but as a whole the performance is nothing short of what one would expect from the undisputed masters of post-rock.