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Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven CD (album) cover


Godspeed You! Black Emperor


Post Rock/Math rock

4.13 | 589 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Maybe I went into this with my expectations too high, but I really don't think Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven is all it's cracked up to be by some. This certainly isn't an awful album, and has received no rating lower than a three. Even though that's what I'm giving it, I think it would be hard for anybody to justify a 2 or 1 for this, because where it does work out, it really is stunning. By far, the most beautiful song was "Storm", which has excellent orchestral work and even one section that seems to rip off "Amazing Grace" in a way that fits with the song. Aside from one section where they hold on to the same droning, dissonant notes for far too long, this one is the best on the album. "Static" is more morose, just as its title suggests, and at one point there is what sounds like a man's description of a near-death experience, and it's hard to tell whether GYBE intends this to be frightening or inspiring. I think that's up to the listener. The song continues into a section reminiscent of PINK FLOYD's "Careful With That Axe, Eugene", or MOGWAI's "Like Herod", but unfortunately there is a bit too much meandering towards the end.

On the second disc you get two more pieces, the first of which I enjoyed quite a bit. "Sleep" begins with an old man's nostalgic remembrances of Coney Island's past glory, and those of you who have ever heard the audio CDs that accompany the book The Century by Peter Jennings will feel right at home with this. While the introduction begins quite slowly, it builds for 8 minutes to a crescendo that makes it well worth listening. The guitar or synth seems rather "B-movie" in its wailing, and as long as the percussion and other instruments are still going, especially during the uptempo section, this is fine. But then GYBE does its usual trick of shooting itself in the foot and allowing the wailing to go on unaccompanied for too long. What comes after this is all right, but not as memorable. The final track, "Antennas to Heaven" simply fails to impress, and is the most aimlessly ambient of the bunch, ending the album on an unfortunate note.

I typically do appreciate "epic" tracks, but I really think GYBE could've used more discipline in crafting these epics. While it's more along the lines of slow and melancholy than fast and flashy, I'm reminded of the problem I have with DREAM THEATER's album Scenes from a Memory: I think there are some meandering, self-indulgent, and only barely listenable sections in here that end up trying my patience and ruining a previously good opinion of a song. And speaking of self-indulgent...the inside cover art does nothing to improve this impression. Somehow, they manage to politicize an album of instrumentals! Completely unnecessary, to my view. Furthermore, I think it would have been a very good editing exercise for GYBE to work to fit this album onto one single 78-minute CD; that might have forced them to edit out some of the passages that were there for no reason. I also see no relationship between the segments of some of these four songs, no evidence that there was any real compositional planning like there was for PINK FLOYD's "Echoes" or "Shine on You Crazy Diamond". Maybe that's a part of this genre, but I don't have the same problem with post-rock greats MOGWAI and SIGUR ROS.

That gets to the root of the other problem I have with GYBE. Maybe I wouldn't feel this way if I had started with them instead of SIGUR ROS and MOGWAI, but I can't help feeling like certain sections are very close to the feel of those other bands. It's quite similar to the feeling I had when listening to PORCUPINE TREE's album In Absentia: feeling like I've heard it all before, except in a more defined, better- composed format. Yes, SIGUR ROS is the newcomer in comparison to GYBE, as far as their ability to compose a good album, but their sound is much more defined and frankly I think they have become the better songwriters of the post-rock genre. MOGWAI, which started at the same time as GYBE, took some time to grow into its compositional style and occasionally still manages to make something drag a la GYBE--but at least their compositions don't tend to run anywhere near as long, so one does get a break every so often! The best sections of Lift Your Skinny Fists, though, often seem very derivative of another band: PINK FLOYD, around the time of Ummagumma and Meddle.

If you are into highly experimental epics that cross into the self-indulgent, and ambient music that occasionally flares into a raging crescendo, then you may enjoy this album. Still, I'm not sure that it's worth all the hype. I'd rather listen to SIGUR ROS or any of the other bands I was reminded of; for this I have to be in a certain mood, and often I don't even want to listen to both discs on the same day.

FloydWright | 3/5 |


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