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The focus on the band’s politics obscures something important: Godspeed You! Black Emperor are making art, not writing editorials. And the fact that they are making art gives them leeway to do things that wouldn’t work in the context of pure rhetoric. It allows them to find magnificence in destruction and build an aesthetic out of decay and loss. So for all their political slogans, pointed titles, and references to global doom, engagement with Godspeed’s music can feel exceedingly personal.
The two lengthy tracks on Allelujah!, “Mladic” and “We Drift Like Worried Fire”, have been part of the band’s live repertoire since 2003. So the record feels in one sense like Godspeed taking care of unfinished business, presenting existing music from their influential run in a context that showcases its full force and power. Taken together, those tracks serve as a 40-minute summary of everything that made this band great.
“We Drift Like Worried Fire” is the flip-side of “Mladic”, both literally and figuratively. For all their grim black-and-white roadside imagery and scenes of destruction, it can be easy to overlook just how joyful Godspeed’s music can be. Built around a simple guitar motif consisting of just a few notes, “Worried Fire” is one of those accruing pieces that gathers one element after another for 10 minutes until it’s so gorgeous you almost can’t take it.
The two shorter tracks on this album, “Their Helicopters’ Sing” and “Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable”, are evidence of their infallible ear for texture. They’re both rich, dense drones, “Helicopter” an especially thick mix of feedback and accordion while “Strung Like Lights” is airier and more unstable, not unlike the locked groove that came at the second side of their debut F#A#∞.