Review Summary: Beauty meets abuse.
As I listen to Efrim Menuck’s latest, Pissing Stars
, I’m left in astonishment. For all the trappings Godspeed You! Black Emperor had engaged in ever since Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
came out to a fanbase grown weary of the patience-trying direction the collective had opted to take, I find Menuck’s work on the other hand to be the exact opposite of a typical Godspeed album and more immediate in its attempt to convey its message to its audience. It’s not about Godspeed and it never
was about Godspeed; Pissing Stars
– embarrassing title aside – does its best to note this, despite the inevitability that there will be comparisons made between the band’s more recent works with Menuck’s newest work. Both sides incorporate the usage of droning instrumental passages, dissonant soundscapes, and both are composed with a heavily political slant that, for better or worse, borders on the refined edge of pretension.
What does this all mean for Pissing Stars
though" The politics of Godspeed, and Menuck by extension, are one and the same; Pissing Stars
is no different, although its origins may be different from other albums Menuck has been involved in to date. The press release (more an anecdote, if anything) depicts a teenaged Menuck reading of the brief romance between the television personality Mary Hart and Mohammed Khashoggi, the son of the Saudi Arabian arms dealer Adnan. “The televisual blonde and the rich Saudi kid with the murderous father,” as Menuck put it, remained an object of obscured interest throughout several decades, finally being excised for all to see on Pissing Stars
. The songs are, like Hart and Khashoggi’s union, strange and vulgar; they’re ugly, morbid, and not quite destructive but don't offer hope to those looking for it.
A song like “The State and Its Love and Genocide” isn’t exactly sunny fare, for a matter of fact, it’s hideous. Wave upon wave of pulsating drones dominated by croaked murmurs and chirping electronics set up only the ugliest of outlooks such as the one Menuck gives us, and by proxy, Hart and Khashoggi; the instrumental “Hart_Khashoggi” is a mood piece, distorted guitars and soothing synthesizers joining together to create a soundscape that is all the more disturbing when taking the origins of Pissing Stars
into account. “A Lamb in the Land of Payday Loans” is outstanding in its normality, driven by the cheapest sounding vintage drum machine in the nearest vicinity; and with its kitsch, a faint ray of light in a realm of boundless darkness before the likes of “LxOxVx/Shelter in Place” snuff it out for good to make way for a heavier serving of Menuck’s trademark gloom-and-doom dystopian tragedies.
As time goes on and each listen takes me further into the hideous sounds created all for the sake of narrating an equally atrocious joining of persons some thirty-plus years ago, everything is, believe it or not, in its right place on a hopeless record like Pissing Stars
. Efrim Menuck was once fascinated by this tale of two very different people finding love as a drugged-up teenager living in a basement somewhere in Montreal; and in the present day, through a record like this, I feel a lingering sense of intrigue in that whirlwind romance that was ultimately doomed as it began. It’s a romance that ultimately has become a footnote in the lives of those who lived it and bore witness to it; when Menuck sings about it, it’s not beautiful at all to think of nor would you expect it to be. And with a relationship that was reduced to tabloid fodder, Pissing Stars
crafts it into something far beyond revolting and into a monolithic beast of despair. There is no hope in the words Menuck sings, only pain.