Review Summary: Though not their best work, Godspeed have produced an epic, sweeping album that at times can engulf the listener, and at other times, completely alienate said listener.
I find Yanqui U.X.O, like much of the music that Godspeed creates, to be very dependent on the atmosphere in which it is being played. To go further, I would even say it is very dependent on what mood the listener is in that dictates how good the album is perceived to be. I find the best times to listen to Yanqui is when I'm focusing on a task at hand, or when I'm in deep thought. These moments lead me to believe that Godspeed are one of the best groups around. Then there are the other times, where I just can't stand to listen to them and I think, "why do I like these guys again"" I suppose this sentiment can be held the same for a lot of music, however I feel it is magnified by Godspeed You Black Emperor.
Compared to other releases by the band, Yanqui has a few notable differences. The most obvious difference is the lack of spoken-word samples that would usually accompany the more ambient passages of prior works. This leads to long sections where very little happens, such as in the middle section of rockets fall on Rocket Falls that has a continuous beat of a bass drum and a cello that lasts for about 8 or 9 minutes. These sections are the only major downfall for the album because as in the case with rockets fall, it can sometimes (again depending on the mood I'm in) ruin the entire song. The beginning and the end of rockets fall is extremely well done and shows Godspeed at their finest. That middle section is where one wishes that perhaps a field recording or spoken word sample would accompany the building tension. This same problem occurs on the next track, Motherf***er=redeemer pt. I. Again, the song is very well done up until the climax 10 minutes in. The song then meanders along for another 11 minutes, leaving the first time listener wondering if the song is going to crescendo again at any point, only to be dissapointed. The second track is also very much lacking in any real direction, however since it is only just slightly over 6 minutes in length, it is far more listenable and can be enjoyable on a more consistent basis.
Now, after reading the previous paragraph, you may be wondering why I gave it a rating of 4. That's because the opening and closing tracks are possibly some of the best work Godspeed have ever produced. The opening track, 09-15-00 is one of the bands most interesting in terms of song structure. Rather then having several different themes that don't have very much in common, 09-15-00's themes flow well and feel more whole. The first part of the song gives the viewer a sense of almost a desery like setting, and after reading the liner notes, this setting is exactly what was meant to be translated. The guitars, bass and toms all work together to present this feeling. Finally this first theme fades out, and a very sinister sounding, violin driven crescendo ensues before exploding into a powerful hard rock part. This movement dies out and then grows one more time with a similar theme, however this time it is accompanied by a more military like percussion section. An excellent track to start of the album
The album closes with it's strongest track in Motherf***er=redeemer pt. II. This song is probably Godspeed's best and is a personal favourite of mine. For once, the band goes all out from start to finish. The song is loud and intense the whole way through starting with crescendoing, screaming background guitars that is eventually joined by the bassline. The bassline is what drives the song, and it's a good one. About have way through, the temp and bassline change, and the song kicks into overdrive. This continues until about the 7 minute mark, when the percussion and bass drop out leaving that same screaming guitar. However now the key has changed, and like most Godspeed albums, Yanqui ends on a glimmer of hope, as the more bouyant and joyful key, along with the percussion and bouncing bass leave the listener feeling satisfied. After such a heavy and dreary past 73 minutes or so, this is the ultimate payoff. A superb closing track.
As stated before, this is an album of perception. At times, I feel I should give this album a 5 and a standing ovation. Other times I think more of a 3, or in and around there. Therefore I settled on a the middle ground for the sake of reason. Yanqui U.X.O is dark and dreary, but whatelse is new" One thing for sure is, this album is epic. With sections that are absolutely brilliant, and other sections that extremely frustrating. Overall, I do find this a solid album. Though I would never recommend it to the casual music listener, those looking for something different and at times awe inspiring, should certainly check this one out.