I’ll be shocked if a better album than Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress (they never make titling easy) drops in 2015. The inscrutable conclave out of carnivalesque Montreal remain one of the “sure things” in music. Can you remember the last disappointing album? If you dredge up Yanqui U.X.O. from 2002 (the brilliant “Motherfucker=Redeemer Pt. 1” and the epic “9-15-00” alone), you are a slave to critical opinion and deserve to be taken out back and pelted with rotten eggs.
Godspeed is the best at what they do and what they do isn’t very nice. They own this post-rock sound more than anybody; they are post-rock like John Barth (I feel like shoving it to Pynchon this afternoon) is post-modern. Everything else post-rock, when it is good, sounds like an imitation of Godspeed anyways so there is no need to shop elsewhere. When it is bad (I’m not going to namedrop any artists out of respect for Sigur Ros), you’re going to need a massive dose of Gravol just make it through a setlist.
Peasantry kicks the album off in style with one of the most menacing behemothic riffs this side of the Atlantic. We get some Rock posturing for the benefit of the faithful and long suffering, and even something that resembles a guitar solo at the 3:16 mark: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” A coincidence? What follows the Incarnation is a sweet palm leaf rain dance ala the first six minutes from Storm on 2000’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. Would that music could bring peace to the Middle East these notes would equal the the liturgy of the truthful (a secular non-denominational anaphora).
The middle two songs are the standard ambient noise tracks we all play in our living room while we slaughter our dinner, resembling something like the disharmony of metallic termites gnawing at the roots of our civilization and for once I don’t skip them to get the payload. Lamb’s Breath and Asunder, Sweet are the fuse igniting and slowly burning. The anticipation adds to the big bang of Piss Crowns are Trembled, which is one of the most complex and most satisfying songs Godspeed has ever attempted in their career (four lustrums but who’s counting grey hairs when the sex is this good).
Piss Crowns is a maelstrom of controlled chaos; gales bursting down the front door and hands boarding up the windows, shadowy articulations you’ll find in an Escher print. If a song could sum up an event or characterize a happening, Piss Crowns is the soundtrack of the globalized shadow of inequalities sweeping over the globe, the airborne toxic event, followed by the revolution of love. There is an absence of specificity to the song (field recordings, orated lyrics, anarchistic diagrams, etc.) but it triumphs through the insurgence of its ballistic politics, like a ballet of treason before the overlords of culture or a wooden shoe dropped into the gears of a factory.
Weren’t the band suspected of being terrorists once upon a time? Mighty good cred for a little post-rock band out of Montreal. Had the CD arrived in a plastic tray instead of a cardboard container, I might have been inspired to throw it at a Conservative’s head at nearby Parliament Hill as a leftist parcel of protest. So you do your due diligence, boys and girls. Go out and steal the album from Walmart at the very least.