Reunions are fickle things. The past couple of years have been rife with reformations that have questionable motives behind them, where the members have returned to the music scene but the band has not. Somehow the sound and meaning initially produced has been forgotten and the band looks through rose-tinted glasses at themselves. This was the major worry when Canadian orchestral instrumental rock group reformed in 2011. What was even more cause for panic was that they were going to attempt to greatest risk of all – recording a new album. If any band were to forget its meaning it would be the most painful with Godspeed. At the turn of the last decade they were the most uniquely impassioned reality check heard in music for a long time, like an air raid siren we should have all heard much sooner.
Yet when the new album went to pre-order it sold out in unprecedented time. But that’s not surprising. When the group disbanded in 2003 we hadn’t even witnessed the complete reign of the Bush administration, the death of Sadam Hussein, the launch of Facebook, the economic downturn… Godspeed return more relevant than when they left, which is a rare situation for a band to find themselves in.
What helped even more was the songs technically weren’t all new. This four track behemoth consisted of two 18 minute compositions which had already been in the band’s repertoire for some time. The other two tracks were 6-minute drones. Despite this the record feels markedly different from what the band have put out previously, focusing far less on spoken samples and having a stronger focus on texture, thanks to the two drone tracks. The instruments feel as if they blend far better on this album, creating less of a distinguishable guitar/violin/drums type arrangement but something more cohesive and orchestra-like.
The peak of the album is almost definitely the epic We Drift Like Worried Fire. Like many others of the best GY!BE tracks it is masterfully deft with its handling of tone and emotion. It starts off with screwdriver played guitars, wailing and mourning into an arppegiated guitar line. The initial scene is almost terrifying, yet by halfway through the song the same melodies arranged in a different manner and to a greater intensity feel almost liberating, and empowering. It’s a song which defies the Godspeed stereotype of being crushingly dark. It’s almost optimistic for the future. Which coincidentally is how Godspeed fans should feel. Because if the best album of 2012 is anything to go by Godspeed are only just starting.
Thanks for reading my top 10 list of the albums of last year! Here’s the full list.
10// Shrines by Purity Ring
9// Beacon by Two Door Cinema Club
8// Rispah by The Invisible
7// Shields by Grizzly Bear
6// There’s No Leaving Now by The Tallest Man On Earth
5// Celebration Rock by Japandroids
4// Devotion by Jessie Ware
3// Attack On Memory by Cloud Nothings
2//1999 by Joey Bada$$
1// ‘Allelujah, Don’t Bend, Ascend! by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
And here are some honorable mentions.
Coexist by The XX // Sorrow by Oh No! Yoko // The Pride by InMe //Burundanga by Fact // Visions by Grimes //