Band: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Album: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
If ever there was a reason to celebrate the limits of human curiosity, despair and hope, that reason comes with Godspeed’s 2000 album Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. The universally acclaimed post-rock legends have managed to capture not only what it means to be creative without regards to limit or boundaries, but also to reveal to everyone who tackles this Herculean record exactly what it means to be human. The 87 minutes contained within will make you think thoughts you never knew, feel emotions you never felt and realize truths you never thought possible.
We are introduced in the opening piece, “Storm” to the gradual bloating of the human ego and the insatiable extent of mankind’s pride through a glorious and triumphant march that extends well into the movement. Not surprisingly, however, this does not last long and before the listener is even aware the piece throws them off their hose and into the cataclysmic quagmire of the existential crisis that awaits us all. After thoroughly removing any shred of self-esteem the beholder is submitted before a droning, hazy maze of dissonance that can only serve to further distort the psyche that only minutes earlier was so comfortably intact.
This is where the “Static” enters. After an unhealthy dosage of tumultuous disquietude, the listener is thrust face-to-face with what has been lurking in his ego since the days of his youth: the despair and anguish that trails the fall of mankind into complete and utter insanity. The seconds turn into minutes as the disemboweling cries of the instruments hammer the feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy into the listener’s shattered percipience.
By the end of the first half of this album, the beholder has gone from triumphant exuberance to the pangs of decay. It is at this moment that he realizes what the band has been thrusting in his face from the very beginning: the decay of time will not only erode the places of our youth, but ourselves as well. A sampled interview at the start of “Sleep” executes this in the most painfully nostalgic way possible. Not only does the speaker daydream about days long gone, but as he continues, it becomes clear that he realized that he is deteriorating in a manner no different than the precious memories of his long enamored past. The following movements take the traveler through the bleary inebriation of padded memories: the inflation of the past which humanity so passionately clings to is stripped naked by the gallows pole by the band for all to see clearly for the first time. The ultimate realization which follows is that the past is just that: the past. There is no returning from whence we came, and to hold onto dead fore-goings is not only futile, but only serves to thrust mankind further into the longfully remembered past which plagues and screams at us from hell. Through these two movements, Godspeed slams the audience over the head with the disarming reality that acceptance of the present and the unnameable mistakes of the past is the only feasible thing that can be seized by a race so plagued by its own callousness.
The thing that separates Skinny Fists from the band’s other output is the inclusion of the final lesson from which this album takes its name. “Antennas to Heaven” lifts the near mortal listener back onto his feet, dusts off his shoulders and forces him to accept his situation and continue forward regardless. Upon realizing that reality will virtually always contradict the will of the individual, instead of responding with rash angst and meaningless dread, Godspeed urges their audience to instead face the absurdity head on and meet the daunting challenges which is poses. Rolling the stone back up the hill and finding empowerment through the unintelligible circumstances which we find ourselves in is the only appropriate response to a fate so cruel and unthinkably ambivalent. In essence, the forewarning of the band is the long heralded phrase Amor fati. One has no choice but to see every event, moment and action that has come to pass throughout the shared human experience as a lesson which teaches rather than punishes.
The path has been laid before all of us. The question is, are you open to taking the first step?