G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! sees the return of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a band who not only create music for the end times, but whose music acts as an important document in which the current and ever-hastening decline of civilization is noted. Its notes are scrawled in tags of bitter graffiti. The Canadian experimental post-rock ensemble deliver four episodes of doom, desperation, and despondency, but a surprising beauty is mixed in with the record’s volatile emotions. After a year of continual fear, and living under a literally asphyxiating plague of death and disease, the band have let loose without abandon on their latest record. Their music has gone to a dark place before, but it’s necessary to travel there, and to understand.
Haunting and elegiac, every note sounds as if it’s a count – all of those unnecessary, avoidable deaths resulting from Covid, tallied up one-by-one, each note reflecting a lost life and a growing anger. Amid all the suffering, uncertainty, political U-turns and wars on how to wear a mask (or even if a mask should be worn), GY!BE are in attack mode, and that’s good news for listeners. After the last twelve months, their fire-scorched riffs and smudged funnels of noise somehow take on more of a meaning and more relevance, making the sound all the more powerful.
Revolving around opportunities for reflection and damning indictments fired at leaders of so-called enlightened governments and their ongoing militaristic values, the music is a controlled inferno, but it always feels as if it’s going to further erupt. The powers-that-be continue to wage wars and sell outright lies to their populace, despite claiming to be beacons of justice and freedom, and the band’s music channels this anger into a deluge of vicious noise and raging instrumental riots. Those fearsome guitars could easily take the form of fire-sputtering Molotov cocktails, shield-shattering projectiles being thrown at the police, or slung grenades in a war-torn battlefield.
‘A Military Alphabet (five eyes all blind)’ seemingly refers to the intelligence-gathering and sharing alliance of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and the moral bankruptcy of Western democracies is always at the forefront of their music. Other pressing issues are also in evidence. Apocalyptic vibes dominate their slate-grey, ashen music – pressing issues of climate change, modern paranoia, CCTV and the data gathering of personal information, social credit systems, and, one can imagine, the recent discussion on Covid passports. They all lead to one thing, and one direction: total control over the population. Post-rock can be both triumphant and bleak, but GY!BE have always been trendsetters in the genre, saying what needs to be said via instrumental methods and means, punching harder than words ever could. Soaring (or screaming?) guitars are left to walk abandoned streets, and sirens open up ‘Fire at Static Valley’, creating their own music of hurt and emergency. A high voltage thrums through its notes as it does a pylon, and while the ensemble’s worldview is out in the open and the music is smeared in realism and heartache, it also glimmers in the glory of unhindered beauty and truth. As such, it’s an epitaph for those who have gone to a better place and a sad statement on modern life, but they still rock as hard as ever.