Godspeed You Black Emperor! – “Storm Pt 1: Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven”
appears on Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
I’ve been writing music reviews for a while now, and one bad habit I developed early on was using superlatives to express enthusiasm (I probably expressed more superlatives than any reviewer, ever). It’s a common crutch for inexperienced writers and it looks clumsy on the page, so these days I do my best to avoid it. I say all this because I really want to describe the first six minutes of Godspeed You Black Emperor’s “Storm” as the greatest crescendo of all time. I think it’s fair to say that this instrumental pretty much became the blueprint for second wave post-rock and was largely responsible for the overuse of the soft-loud-soft aesthetic in that genre throughout the first half of the decade. And why wouldn’t every band want to copy it? It’s a magnificent piece of music. Perhaps the crucial, distinguishing factor here is that the opening segment of “Storm” never sounds melodramatic, and the band save most of the overtly political soundbites and sorrowful violin passages for the later parts of the album. Instead, this is a beautiful, uplifting piece that feels triumphant and has a sense of sweeping, widescreen grandeur. The band would have nailed it with those fantastic guitar lines and rigid, street-marching percussion but then the horns – oh my god, those stunning, majestic horns – hit full force during the final minutes and you know you’re hearing something significant. In terms of runtime this is a blip – the initial movement of the twenty-minute opening piece on a double-album – yet it just about renders the rest of the song, album and genre unnecessary. An honourable mention goes to “Motherfucker=Redeemer (Part 2)”, the closing track from Yanqui U.X.O.