Album Review: G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END! by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Great, Based on 6 Critics
Pitchfork - 81 Based on rating 8.1/10
For a band boasting so many members, Godspeed You! Black Emperor spent an awfully long time straining beneath the weight of their own concepts. During their first decade-long phase around the turn of the millennium, they were a proudly shambolic chamber ensemble making post-rock protest music; the specific quality of the strings or seamlessness of the samples mattered less than the apocalyptic alarms their gestalt sounded. The work suggested a stirring Dada pedigree, where the feverish expression of some revolutionary idea mattered more than the nuances of execution.
Their latest, G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END!, lands roughly where we'd expect - but even so, these moments in particular feel reignited with an artistic spark we haven't heard from Godspeed in years. Built around a reliable mixture of elegance and fury alongside production duties from The Besnard Lakes ' Jace Lasek, Godspeed paint another vividly striking portrait the only way they know how - reminding us of the never-ending struggle between chaos and release. When Godspeed released their pioneering debut, F♯ A♯ ∞, back in the late summer of '97, they quickly stamped their mark on the genre of post-rock right out of the gate - but its release would also help kickstart a surge of experimental music.
There’s something perversely reassuring and unerringly appropriate about the arrival of a new album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor both in the middle of a pandemic and after a year of political and social turbulence. They've built their existence on providing soundtracks to varying gradations of apocalypse since releasing their debut album back in 1997, so their appearance to do so for the current global upheaval sort of feels half expected, not to mention very much welcome. We may be living in different times but the album's release has been very Godspeed.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor often seem like a band for whom words aren't enough; their entire instrumental discography, often labeled as post-rock, but taking in everything from freeform jazz to harsh noise, and powered by an impassioned punk grit, could be seen as an attempt to vent their contempt at the socio-political through the only means they have. After a decade-long hiatus ended with 2012's magnificent 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!', 'G_d's Pee at State's End!' marks the band's fourth album in nine years, and it finds them in robust form. Recorded at the band's own Montreal studio in the midst of the pandemic, with The Besnard Lakes' Jace Lacek at the helm, GY!BE have cherry-picked from the sonic extremities of their back catalogue; a library of musical and atmospheric exploration that is much about mood as it is about melody.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor have always been ahead of the times. The Montreal post-rock legends pushed the boundaries of the then-nascent genre with their earliest releases, and used their liner notes as overtly political missives two decades ago. When they were awarded the Polaris Music Prize in 2013 for their comeback record, Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!, they criticized the pomp and circumstance of the gala, and donated the $50,000 prize to charitable organizations dedicated to giving musical instruments to prison inmates in Quebec.
The band's longstanding push for prison and police reform, and an urgent need for unity, have since become popular positions among a growing chorus of believers in the existence of a better world.
No vacancies at this apocalypse
The year is 2021, democracy is crumbling, and rambling hagiofications of the career and legacy of Godspeed You! Black Emperor are as passé as anything else to do with post-rock. We know who Godspeed are; so do they. Where do you think the self-parody comes from? G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END! is definitely an album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor.