Canadian post-rock champions Godspeed You! Black Emperor return with yet more music that sounds larger than life itself. If the grandiose nature of their previous material hasn’t clicked with some listeners, G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END is unlikely to change that. The band perform captivating protest music with commanding authority, powering through huge arrangements that convey a wide array of emotions. Theirs is a blueprint that has now existed for over 25 years. What separates State’s End from other records in the catalogue, however, is the sense of hope and triumph. Godspeed You sound genuinely buoyant.
Whenever Godspeed You release another record, it’s hard not to draw comparisons with their magnificent 1997 debut, however unfair that may seem. It’s a milestone in instrumental rock music, and no album sets a scene quite like it. Though it rises to crashing crescendos, I’ve always felt that it thrives most on the subtleties. State’s End is occasionally found wanting in this department. The arrangements sound bigger than ever before, but they aren’t necessarily more interesting. Strangely enough, my favourite moments on the record are mostly the most understated. “Fire at Static Valley” is an apocalyptic march that builds similarly to “The Dead Flag Blues”, playing out like pure melodrama. It’s shorter and quieter than the larger symphonic suites, but is far more engrossing.
Then there’s the stunning closing track “OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (for D.H)”, a title that, in itself, portrays the general mood of State’s End. Keep fighting. There is hope. We will get through this. It’s a message I can relate to enormously right now. The music is gorgeous, offering time to reflect, with distorted soundscapes buzzing alongside aching strings. As has often been the case with Godspeed You’s music, sometimes the quietest moments are the most powerful. Whilst State’s End is no doubt a bloody good record to add to an already impressive catalogue, it does show that bigger is not always better.
7 out of 10
Godspeed You! Black Emperor are back with more brainy rock and weird names. Wailing violins, droning chords, groaning synths, visions of ashes and flame, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more say no more. Except, I really can’t say much more. André and Marcus have it pretty well covered and I’d just be taking up space. That said, let me say more.
G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! has been a welcome dose of Godspeed post-rock, though it at times feels too familiar for its own good. The record is neither as engrossing as F♯ A♯ ∞ nor as explosive as Luciferian Towers, coming across instead like the group’s musical median in LP form. This is still great, to be fair. “Job’s Lament” listens like a primordial machine climbing out of the earth, while the stunning “Fire at Static Alley” is transcendent and unnerving in equal fashion. Truth be told the latter especially is a cut above the rest of the album.
For the most part G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! feels strangely by the numbers. It’s everything you’d expect from a Godspeed record, which is both a privilege and slightly disappointing. Maybe time (and the fast-approaching end of days) will ripen its offerings, but I expect this to be one for the ‘solid entry into their discography’ pile.
7 out of 10
I reviewed my four pages’ worth of hastily scribbled notes for this review and found that, as was the case when we reviewed Luciferian Towers, I’d neglected to write much about how this album sounds. While I touched on some of its interesting quirks - like the way it frequently reminded me of the Old Norse stylings of Wardruna’s Kvitravn from earlier this year - it’s mainly a reflection of my various thought processes over the course of my fourth listen. Led in entirety by the dense and challenging composition, the found-footage-style dialogue peppered throughout, and the nutty names of its parts and whole, G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is, as with all of GY!BE’s output, a backdrop for losing yourself to deep thoughts.
That’s essentially my take on this; another commanding and deft iteration of Godspeed’s loved and lauded style. Another dose of structured white noise, simple melodies that bely the depth of the composition, erratic arrangements that fizz past just as you grasp what’s going on, and the sum total space to think. The joy I took in the album came from drawing links between each of its tracks — the religious inference of “Job’s Lament”; the sounds of nature and undergrowth continuing on as explosions rattle nearby during “where we break how we shine (ROCKETS FOR MARY)”; the malignant storm, sirens, and reverb-heavy guitar melody of “Fire at Static Valley”; the morose and earthy mumblings of beleaguered people in ““GOVERNMENT CAME” (9980.0kHz 3617.kHZ 4521.0 kHZ)”; and the relatably tragic phrase and song title “OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (for D.H)”.
To me, it feels as though the album is meant to be taken as a broken relic unearthed in a post-human society, or an apocalyptic hellscape where survivors search for some reason behind what’s happened, and we in the present world are lucky enough to be able to fill the gaps so readily. Dissolutionment with God, the world bending to humanity’s looming presence, nature’s ignorance to our encroaching destructions, malign government interventions, suspicion of one another, tribalism and warfare - it’s essentially a roadmap for humanity’s journey into the modern and beyond.
In amongst the bleakness we’ve also got one of Godspeed’s most uplifting records. It’s more apt than much of their previous work to pull us quickly from melancholy into ascendant harmonies and newfound clarity from beneath the static, leaving me to settle on an overarching theme for this album-cum-cognitive-playground: hope that things will be all right, despite it all. It’s not particularly hooking out of context, and I often find myself wishing it plumbed darker depths to send its catharses into starker and more satisfying light, but it’s nonetheless a relentless and marvellous extra slice of Godspeed’s magic.
7 out of 10