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

LIFT YOUR SKINNY FISTS LIKE ANTENNAS TO HEAVEN

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

 

Post Rock/Math rock

4.13 | 671 ratings

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Roundabot
5 stars First released on: riversofreverb.blogspot.dk

Godspeed You Black Emperor! is a band like no other. Being one of the pioneering bands in the post-rock genre, their music is different than probably any band that is considered part of this genre. Their symphonies succeed in creating the atmosphere of a post- apocalyptic world, a mental picture of a desolated earth where nothing grows anymore and life is just a memory of the past. Beginning with their debut album F♯ A♯ ∞ (1997) they have been known for their long-scaled compositions, their long build-ups, their use of classical instruments, drone guitars and tape recorded speeches.

Their second album though, is a work of epic proportions, even for GYBE standards. Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven (2000) is not only GYBE's longest and most ambitious album, being a double album composed of only four 'songs' (they would be better called movements or compositions), it is also probably their most complete one. It is a career defining effort for the Canadian band, being heralded by most since it was released as the band's masterpiece and as a classic post-rock record.

The music found in this album features some of the most intense and varied feelings, even when the general tone is somber. From sheer happiness in the beginning of Storm all the way through the hopeless desperation at the end of Antennas to Heaven, it encompasses some of the most powerful buildups, transitions and melodies the band has ever written. They work together to create a sense of completion, as if the album as a whole is trying to make a point about the human experience in its entirety.

Even without lyrics, it can be said that in their work, GYBE show clearly how poignant a band they can be regarding current social and political events, having had problems themself in the US in the wake of the War on Terror. LYSFLATH is probably their less political album though, not having any politically charged messages such as earlier albums had, like the introduction of The Dead Flag Blues in their debut or the one in BBF3 from their sophomore EP Slow Riot for NewZer' Kanada (1999).

The theme of the album seems to revolve around the most sentimental side of their mostly anarchist worldview rather than on the intellectual side of it. Even when they get more political in the recording they use as an introduction to Sleep, clearly a criticism of savage progress in the wake of the new millennium, it appeals more to the emotions of the listener rather than trying to enrage him into action. It's that change of direction which gives LYSFLATH its soulful nature; its mysterious and magical appeal.

GYBE wear their heart on their sleeves on this album. Sometimes it even seems like they are begging for people's understanding, as in the ending of Storm or in the whole Sleep, the saddest and most heartfelt composition on the album. They also succeed in creating the paranoid, almost schizophrenic atmosphere of the times the album was released, with the fear of terrorist attacks and the new millennium coming. The mid-section of Storm and the outstanding Static are the best examples for this.

Although the compositions work as a whole, they are each divided in different sections. Some of this sections are the whole base on which this movements stand upon. Take for example the achingly gorgeous She Dreamt She Was a Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone in an Empty Field. It opens with some of the most beautiful violins on the whole album followed by the band playing the most urgent section ever recorded by the band. It ends with a build-up that sounds like a dirge for lost hope, the kind of melody you hear in your head when there's nothing left to do.

Other highlight sections are the cheerful Lift Yr. Skinny Fists, Like Antennas to Heaven..., with its horns and victorious drums, opening the album with a blast, or the nerve-wracking World Police and Friendly Fire which builds up to a wonderfully noisy and apocalyptic explosion of sound. The musical peak of LYSFLATH comes with the melancholic Broken Windows, Locks of Love Pt. III which ends Sleep with a highly complex and instrumentally rich section. This section alone defines perfectly what GYBE's music is, with all its diverse nuances.

One of the main characteristics that have been attached to this band is how cinematic it is, to the point of GYBE being described as 'cinematic post-rock'. Throughout this album in particular you can't help picturing different images whenever a build-up comes, or a tape recorded speech or noise, or when the main melodies kick. Even in the quietest moments of the album, the sense of it being the soundtrack for an unwritten movie about life itself doesn't fade until the last screeching sounds of Antennas to Heaven.

In the end it is probably the soundtrack for all of our lives, for the whole society we are living in. The question that's being asked here is: Where do we go now? What's next? The album leaves no answer, just a final cry for help to make sense of all this. Maybe a baby inside its mother's womb or the heart of the earth itself, the final sounds of Antennas to Heaven end the most desperate composition of the album, and the album itself in a mysterious note.

Probably the album makes more sense following the events that came to be just one year after its release. They left some with no hope or tomorrow to look forward to, and others with the gargantuan task of living through all the ashes and pain left. Still the amount of questions just increased since that moment, leaving this album as a testament of life in the last days leading to the moment when we were pushed a little bit further into the abyss.

Roundabot | 5/5 |

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