Feature: Best Albums of 2021 (Spectrum Culture)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END [Constellation]

The faux-mocking political ramblings. The 10- and 20-minute songs. The epic builds and crashing crescendos. Twenty-odd years into Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s critically adored existence, it’s easy to see how the Montreal collective could have become a caricature of itself – and a caricature alone. But, on {G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END}, the ensemble kept the narrative alarmingly fresh and wrote its brightest chapter by doing what they do best: writing opaque and deliciously epic music that speaks to the head and hollers deep from the heart within.

The short-wave radio musings return on {G_d’s Pee} after a notable absence, with the band making fine use of them by broadcasting autonomous drone kill codes – or so the narrative seems to go. But the most illuminating moment of the LP’s first half is certainly “Job’s Lament,” where a fragile-as-crystal guitar line eventually is supplemented and sublimated and blown to bits by a monstrous rise that only these guys could summon. (Sorry, Explosions In The Sky.) The whole eight minutes of the piece, part of the record’s first suite, are pitch-perfect, down to the militaristic snare rolls and guitarist/makeshift frontman Efrim Menuck shining positively radiant as he soars above the listener.

What’s also impressive about {G_d’s Pee} is how the shorter pieces are not in-between song fodder but, instead, bellow and wail on their own merits. To that end, there’s the record’s brilliant closer, “OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (For D.H.)” In about six and half minutes, the band tears away at its own artifice. The resulting requiem starts with frightening, emboldened but still eerie synth- and guitar- drone calls that swell into wailing strings. The closing, in case you’re taking notes, is recorded so shockingly devoid of ephemera or clutter – which, really, are GY!BE staples – that it almost sounds like another band. The strings positively weep.

Twenty-odd years into GY!BE’s proceedings, these guys might never have sounded so brilliant, so engaged and so comfortable in their own lovely skins. — Justin Vellucci, Spectrum Culture, Dec. 17, 2021

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About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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