Thursday, May 05, 2016

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Yanqui U.X.O. (2002)

Godspeed You Black Emperor! became Godspeed You! Black Emperor on this release. I suppose it's a subtle difference. The good news is that discogs hasn't made two entries for the band, something that is entirely possible on that site, but would be dumb.

GYBE gets right to the point on the insert:

"09-15-00 is sept.15,2000 is Ariel Sharon surrounded by 1,000 Israeli soldiers marching in Al-Haram Ash-Sharif & provoking another intifada."

That's a political statement. In fact, there's lot of political references on this record, even if there are few spoken word parts. Let's start with the title. U.X.O. refers to unexploded ordinance, which is exactly what it sounds like: any type of munition that did not explode after deployment and, therefore, still poses a risk. Lots of unexploded WWII bombs have been found in London and other places. In the album footnotes, Godspeed defines U.X.O. as "unexploded ordnance is landmines is cluster bombs."

What's interesting about the album jacket is that the rear cover shows a diagram that suggests that BMG, AOL Time-Warner, Vivendi Universal, and Sony all have links to manufacturers of armaments and, by extension, American U.X.O.

And then there's this:

"Though godspeed is guilty of profiting from hateful chainstore sales, we encourage you to avoid giving money to predatory retailers and superstores. & hope still, a little resistance always maybe, stubborn tiny lights vs. clustering darkness forever ok? thankslovegodspeed

There are some differences between the vinyl and CD pressing, as explicated by a detail-oriented Wikipedia editor:

"The album was released as a CD and a double vinyl LP, the latter having three noticeable differences. One is the compounding of the two-part composition "09-15-00" (the album liner notes imply that on this date the second Palestinian intifada began, although this is incorrect) into one. Another is the addition of an untitled "hidden" track after some silence (it is masked in a similar manner with the short song "J.L.H. Outro" on the CD release of F♯A♯∞); this ulterior track consists of a sampled and cut-up George W. Bush speech with applause added (it also appears on bandmember Aidan Girt's related project 1-Speed Bike's debut album Droopy Butt Begone! (2000) in the track "The Day that Mauro Ran Over Elwy Yost", as well as on Museum Fire Records' compilation Azadi! (2003, a benefit for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) where it is titled "George Bush Cut Up While Talking"). Finally, the second section of the two-part track "Motherfucker=Redeemer" is about five minutes longer on the LP due to an extended ambient opening." [source]

Somewhat bizarrely, the Allmusic reviewer refers to the band as "Montreal politico-art/music terrorist unit." I am not sure what a music terrorist is, but it is somewhat surprising that the reviewer would have used those words so soon after 9/11. Nevertheless, the review is positive and the review concludes with this statement: "And for the record, though the critical backlash against Godspeed You! Black Emperor has already begun, this is music for a different kind of engagement; one that sets its own agenda and pushes against its own history." [source]

Even some friends became inexplicably anti-GYBE, based solely on the assessment that the band relied on a formula of soft followed by crescendo. I would call that a totally simplistic view of the band and its sound. Allmusic has a much better description of the music, noting that it "develops slowly over time and creates layers of dynamic tension that expresses itself in waves and off-kilter, shimmering flows." [source]

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