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Godspeed You Black Emperor!


To Godspeed You Black Emperor!, a lot of stuff probably just seems cool. Drug movies. Train whistles. Alan Lomax. Long stuff. Weird stuff. John Cage. John Fahey. Album covers that look handmade. Being 13 and listening to Pink Floyd. On the two-disc Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, this Montreal-based nine-member collective turns out 20-minute-plus compositions that are less songs than thrifted collections of sounds. The pieces can be summed up as lists of the things collected to make them: found sounds, jazziness, guitar wallpaper, tin cans, acoustic folkie farts, string sections. Here’s Disc 1, which comprises two songs, “Storm” and “Static,” subdivided, respectively, into three and four kinder-Cagean minimovements: trumpets that blur for Miles and Miles, drums that flip and flap real hard, guitars (thank God!) that wail all Radiohead-like, cellos, bits of Sonic Youth-style dead space. It’s nowhere near as weird as the band imagines; it’s just overcast music. And it only gets worse on Disc 2. The thing about Godspeed’s music-as-collecting approach is that the emotions come off as stunted. The band equates high feeling with noise pileups, so you know things are about to get heavy when the guitars do. It’s as conventionalized as that part in the drug movie when the girlfriend is left alone (usually after a fight) and you know she’s going to OD. And in between Godspeed’s freakouts, things start to get drowsy. The scenery just sort of stays the same: an old man’s recollections, guitar buildup, strings…repeat. Listening to Lift Your Skinny Fists is like driving through Kansas. Or like living through the moment at the Floyd show when the big floating pig comes out—over and over again. —Jason Cherkis