Snowplow You Bad Elephant!


I quit smoking cigarettes recently and I’ve been making do with Gummi Bears, the patch, and tons of righteous weed. So between Kid A, Madonna, and that new Doves album, I’ve been enjoying a summer of love in my mind. The Doves’ mantras of desolation are even trippier than the first couple Cranes records (though maybe not as lysergic as prime Swans or Ravens), Madonna’s new one makes the 13th Floor Elevators sound like the Weavers, and Kid A doesn’t have a thought in its head, always a plus with stoner rock. (Laddish punter Nick Hornby recently lambasted Radiohead for making an album only 16-year-olds could enjoy because apparently adults who have to work and buy food don’t have time to be “challenged” by rock records. What seems to be lost on Hornby is that the biggest challenge most listeners would have with Kid A would be getting the plastic wrap off the CD. I hope somebody bought Mr. Hornby some Lucinda, Victoria, and/or Dar Williams records for Christmas.)

Never previously one to partake, I am loving the reefer. And I highly (get it?) recommend that everyone do the same when listening to the two bands currently on my cannabis hit parade: Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Jackie-O Motherfucker. As it happens, I first heard about Godspeed from my Swans e-mail discussion list (our watchwords: Power & Volume). The list has never steered me wrong, so I picked up the previous Godspeed releases (f#a#(infinity) and Slow Riot for New ZerØ Kanada), and the band became my dark Canadian masters.

I actually tried to write about GYBE!’s new “lift yr. skinny fists like antennas to heaven!” while I was high as a kite, but I lost the plot (there’s a lesson for you 16-year-olds: Don’t get stoned unless you do your homework first). Here are some notes I took after inhaling a spliff as big as the Ritz: Montreal/multi-member/ multi-membered?/multi-orgasmic/do people have skinny fists?/maybe babies/Savage Republic/Lebanese surf spaghetti doom guitar/ummagumma!/they are genius/Canadians are slow/I like slow/2112 takes a long time/bytor you black snow dog!/if the Dirty Three made out with Ennio Morricone at a Glenn Branca concert . . . /If Savage Garden made out with Glenn Branca at a Banana Republic . . . /Buy more ice cream.

Oy vey! What was I thinking? “Lift yr. skinny fists” is the best movie I’ve seen all year. The Morricone reference rings true in the way Godspeed scatters taped voices, sound effects, and a general dustbowl dynamic around the outskirts of their symphonies to godlessness. No singer! Maybe I am getting old. The anguish of the instrument is all I need to hear. On Godspeed’s new one, there’s a minute or two of Harry Smith-anthology-outtake rehash, but overall, they shut up real good. Vocals would just ruin the whole epic rising-tide wall o’ bombast thing anyway.

Godspeed’s records will either blow your head off or leave you shrugging, depending on where your personal quest for freedom is taking you. They are uplifting in the same way that “TV Eye,” “Marquee Moon,” and “Expressway to Yr. Skull” were when I first heard them. GYBE! sometimes get tagged as a sort of doomsday cult with a bleak worldview. Yeah, well, so’s your mom.

A like-minded consortium of faceless anti-heroes can be found on fig. 5 by the allegedly-from-Portland Jackie-O Motherfucker. Like GYBE!, they sport a cast of thousands adept at creating a setting conducive to both contemplation and fireworks. Electro-acoustics give way to pretty postrock, which makes room for a faux-yet-effective a cappella choir reading of ancient death folk, which propels the group (who are they? Beats me! Apparently they put out two vinyl-only releases before this one, thus reducing their potential audience at the time by about 99.9 percent) into a rousing facsimile of skronk and free-love meandering that I don’t hate despite my solemn vow never to listen to anything that smells like jazz but isn’t. Sounds like J-O M recorded fig. 5 in a church. I hope their utopianism (or Unitarianism, maybe?) is never stunted.

Kranky, P.O. Box 578743, Chicago, IL 60657; Road Cone,

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