Friday, October 2, 2009

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Classic. Listen. Know. Now.

A warning: this isn't new music that I'm writing about today. It's a decade or more old. It's also pretty famous, if not nearly famous enough.

Any of y'all post-rock fans out there almost certainly know GY!BE already; they're sort of the linchpins to the entire genre. Any of y'all who haven't heard of Godspeed... I'm tempted to say something along the lines of 'shame on you', but I'm not going to. I'll just say that you're missing out on something truly special, something that verges on (if it doesn't cross over fully into the land of) mind-blowing.

I say this without equivocation: the first time I really sat down and listened to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's 1997 album 'F#A#oo' (that's 'F-sharp A-sharp infinity), my mind was utterly blown. This isn't to say that there isn't good stuff on GY!BE's other albums - I'm fond of 'Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven' and 'Tiny Silver Hammers' - but F#A#oo was what made me fall in love.

This isn't pop music, and if you go into it looking for pop music, you'll be confused and put off. The song I'm including with this post, 'The Dead Flag Blues', is slow in places. It has room to be; it's 16 1/2 minutes long. It makes me think of the ocean on a warm, cloudless night. It builds as calmly and inexorably as the incoming tide, solemn guitar and strings rolling in like breakers past a sandbar. The only words in the song are from a poem, and they're spoken (not sung) in a stark bass voice: "The car's on fire / and there's no driver at the wheel / and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides," the voice intones. Cheery stuff, I know... but brilliant.

Another warning: this isn't music to be listened to through cheap computer speakers. Not that any music should be, but you can get the gist of Britney Spears or Taylor Swift no matter how scratchy and flat the sound might be. Not so much this. GY!BE is music that demands to be experiences in quality - good speakers, or at least a decent pair of headphones. The difference in the experience is truly astounding.

Gahh - anyways. Listen. If you like it, pick up the album, or any of Godspeed's other work. F#A#oo has two other tracks, 'East Hastings' and 'Providence', both of which are, if not equally jaw-dropping, beautiful in their own right.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - The Dead Flag Blues

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