G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
2021 • ROCK/EXPERIMENTAL • CONSTELLATION
Although on their new album they are still able to scare their listeners with creepy crescendo and synthesizers, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! doesn’t show anything that hasn’t been done before.
Editor’s note: This review was written based on the streaming version of G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!, which has eight tracks and not just four as the physical version. However, the final experience is the same in both cases.
Those who follow Godspeed You! Black Emperor for a while knows that last year’s quarantine was a perfect time to listen to their albums. But also, these same people, who accompany the boys from Quebec who started their careers making music in the post-rock movement, also know that since their debut at the end of the last century, the band has changed a lot. In the beginning, they were young poets who didn’t care if their handwriting — the quality of their sound — was legible or not, they just cared if their “words” were true to what they believed. However, since they returned after a short hiatus in 2010, their sound seems to have taken a different path. Their last albums, although still retaining some of the band’s root essence, seem to be concerned with sound quality as well. In other words, recently, Godspeed You! Black Emperor seems to adjust both quality and honesty to fit each other.
In no time, however, of course, this gets to be bad. These changes, in fact, were expected. During this “vacation time,” the band changed members, and both new and old worked on several other projects outside the band. These experiences, in turn, changed the members’ perspectives, which, when they returned, brought changes to the style of crafting of the records. Among these, the most important ends up being the fact that the band’s new albums seem strangely too cautious. In other words, to try to make this clearer, their newer records look more than ever, more concerned with how they are going to sound than if they are going to be able to “speak” what they want to “speak.” Fortunately, they have always been lucky enough to combine useful with nice and their newest album, G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!, it’s no different.
Although it never sounds bad or as something not minimally interesting, G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! has some problems. The biggest one, perhaps, is this antithesis that, although it is not bad, it is not something totally exciting or different from everything they have done so far. The guitars sound fantastic, the drums violent and we have the old and impressive dreamy synthesizers. However, all of this seems like something usual and that is not a challenge for them. Of course, there are some changes, again in production and how the band works and reconciles its sound with quality, however, at the end of the day, there is nothing very specific or that stands out that makes this album shine in their discography — as it had in the classics 1997’s F♯ A♯ ∞ and 2000’s Lift Your Skinny Fists.
Like their other albums, the album came with a kind of demand. They are: empty the prisons; take power from the police and give it to the neighborhoods that they terrorize; end the forever wars and all other forms of imperialism; tax the rich until they’re impoverished. However, at no time can you feel these kinds of things. Fortunately, this is all replaced by something better, a faithful, deafening, and immersive representation of the end of the world. The album has four tracks in the physical version, where, in the streaming version, the 1 and 3 are broken into smaller ones. The album runs for more than fifty minutes. In this superficial view of the record, you notice that AT STATE’S END! it is already weaker than the older albums of the band, which ran for almost an hour and a half. This, coupled with what was mentioned later about them not showing anything necessarily new, makes the band, at the beginning of the third decade of their career, seem, in a way, amateurs.
But, that doesn’t mean, again, that the album is bad, even though it is not accessible at all. The first move, “A Military Alphabet (five eyes all blind) (4521.0kHz 6730.0kHz 4109.09kHz),” is a mythic and didactic introduction to the apocalypse. It starts with a radio broadcast, followed by distorted voices that look like humans asking for help and menacing creatures. After a radio playing 1950s music and a war chariot passing in the background, a mind-boggling guitar hangs in the air. It is here that they seal the fate of humanity, delivering the world to its end. But still, there’s nothing very special or that wasn’t expected. Soon after, we arrive in a state of contemplation established by atmospheric synthesizers in “Job’s Lament.” This track starts with loose, thick strings, marked by drums. Over time, the band establishes a tension in it for a very well done and planned crescendo. However, the problem remains when we arrive at the climax of the track which, in a nutshell, has nothing much besides a sound disturbance that we have heard before. With that, this track establishes itself as something contemplative with nothing to worry about, taking away the dynamics of the song, besides being something longer than it should.
Unfortunately, this feeling that things are longer than they should be and that they are in a very passive state and do not establish anything active in the listener is present in other parts of the record. “First of the Last Glaciers,” which despite having some well-marked, planned, and performed passages and transitions, is just a filler track, being, in the end, just a continuation of the previous one. A little further on the record, we can also quote “Cliffs Gaze/cliffs ‘gauze at empty waters’ rise/Ashes to Sea or Nearer to Thee,” which despite sounding like euphoria and a kind of sound epiphany and having several insane moments, ends up being the most “generic” part of the album. Finally, the closing track also works with divine airs, almost like a transcendence with the help of high-end and explosive instruments. But, it seems unfinished and doesn’t seem quite sure how to close the record.
However, in the middle of the album, we have a part that is one of the most golden moments of the year. I am referring to the sequence, “where we break how we shine (Rockets for Mary),” “Fire at Static Valley,” and “‘Government Came’ (9980.0kHz 3617.1kHz 4521.0 kHz).” It is at that moment that you get sucked into this other apocalyptic world. It’s also that you’re really afraid of what you’re hearing. “where we break how we shine (Rockets for Mary)” is full of guns firing, birds, and car noises, with extremely vivid images of society falling apart. In the next track, everything is still frightening with storms, thick strings, terrifying high-pitched violins, and an intense tension that is built through subtle crescendo. It is in this range that you feel that something is wrong in your life or that something very bad is coming. In “‘GOVERNMENT CAME’ (9980.0kHz 3617.1kHz 4521.0 kHz),” in turn, comes back with distorted broadcast noises that look like dying people or monsters. An interesting factor is how this track is very diverse, both in the number of instruments used and in the form and arrangement that they are played. Of course, this last piece lasts a little longer than it should, but it’s still amazing as fuck.
In the aftermath, G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is a solid, concrete, cohesive record that delivers excellent moments despite its worst defects. It still carries that feeling of something that is much more cautious than spontaneous, however, in return, they deliver a sharper sound that allows for greater details. By the way, the name of the tracks are fucking cool.