Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Gentlemen and Gentlewomen of the Vox Chaotica Council! Remember that terribly sappy and waaaaaaaaaay toooooooooo looooooooooong post I made here about Interpol (before I found comfort in my voice)? Here's the thing. I'm dumb and I will fight you with skinny fists lifted to heaven about that.
What's that you say? You say there's a clever pun in there dealing with the title of this piece? How DARE you come into this imagined space and shout all your Godspeed You! Black Emperor trivia knowledge without yelling spoilers first? You... you casual listener!
Here's the deal. Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a Canadian post-rock band once mistaken for terrorists. Not that I think terrorism is cool (if you know anything about me, you can probably tell I harbour very strong feelings against violence, let alone extreme violence), but it is funny to me that the government thought this band of musicians looked threatening. You shouldn't take me as a Godspeed You! Black Emperor scholar, or even any sort of expert about them–in other words, I may be exaggerating a bit in the coming paragraphs because I am passionate about them.
I came into contact with them because my good friend Zach. Now the thing about Zach is he has the widest and most accommodating musical taste of anyone I know–one minute he'll be on a hardcore gangster rap binge, and the next he'll be listening to Merzbow noise, only to follow it up with Belle & Sebastian. But he and I have the same general base for our musical tastes: Tony Hawk's Underground. We both are just filthy skate rats who discovered music through the majesty of Tony Hawk's Underground (by far the greatest skating game ever created).
So one day Zach and I were driving around having just eaten at Waffle House with The Darling Sounds (and friends), and this haunting, beautiful reverie of a song meanders through my ears, slowly drifting into my heart, and I say: "Zach. Tell me who this is." He says it's Silver Mt. Zion (some of Godspeed You! Black Emperor went on to create Silver Mt. Zion and all its funny derivatives), and that if I like this song—13 Angels Standing Guard 'Round the Side of Your Bed—I should give a good listen to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. So I immediately swipe his iPhone from his hand and smash the letters G-O-D-S-P-E-E-D-Y-O-U into his Spotify and I force hims to drive a few miles (10 or 15... maybe 100 or 200) while we listen to more of their music.
What really torques my crankshaft (neither is that a euphemism nor a negative statement) about Godspeed You! Black Emperor's music is their spoken word passages, and their ability to imbue such life into their music. One of my old poetry professors (I took three semesters of poetry at ASU, an amazing decision I enjoyed every minute of) told my class that poetry can save lives, so we should memorise one poem so we always have that to fall back on in case of emergencies or whatever. I thought it was dumb at the time, so I just took one I had recently read and pasted it in my brain long enough to recite it to my teacher. But I have memorised the speech given at the beginning of The Dead Flag Blues and I can feel in my bones there is no way that passage will ever leave me or lose the ability to completely change my mindset. It blew me away when I first heard it. So much so I had to pull over and park in some desolate CVS parking lot so I wouldn't be a danger to the other drivers. They get to me on all the upper chakra levels, my friends.
Many people don't listen to their music. Oh wait, I forgot to raise my hand and tell you we're changing topics for a minute. *Raises hand* Okay we're good. I mean, everyone hears music, but many people don't actively engage their minds in listening to their music. Pop, in general, doesn't really have much beyond a big sexy hook–not that the writers intended it that way (blame the producers and the studio fat-cats who are all about the money and actively suck any soul that was originally in the music), and a whole lot of people only are exposed to pop, so we aren't encouraged to absorb any of the material in the songs. But if you listen to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the music is meticulously plotted and gently (though firmly) guides your emotions throughout the song.
It makes my heart tingle in all the right ways.
So here's the deal, go out and listen to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Read this interview with Efrim Menuck (NQSFW – Language). Then go back and listen to your favourite album. Tell me what it is and I'll listen to it and then discuss it with you. As a show of good faith, my favourite album is Hospice by The Antlers. You should listen to it in a dim room with headphones and without putting it on shuffle. Just listen to it once from beginning to end as the tracks are listed.
tl;dr Godspeed you Black Emperor is an AMAZING BAND. Post-Rock is a fantastic genre of music. You have homework. Listen to your favourite album, then tell me what it is so we can discuss it. If you want, listen to my favourite album first! And never forget YOU ARE THE BEST.