By William Michael Smith
By Jef With One F
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Sonya Harvey
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Nathan Smith
By Craig Hlavaty
Inscrutable band name
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Randomly chosen by combining words in the Canadian Anarchist Collective Magnetic Poetry set. Put the exclamation point after Emperor! if you want.
Sigur Rós: Is that "sugar rose"? "Cy-grrr rahs"? Or "Seger rocks"?
Exotic home base
SR: Iceland, land of stunning physical beauty (mountains, glacial rivers, etc.) and crazed electro-divas (Björk).
GYBE: In 1984, self-releasing 33 copies of a cassette titled All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling.
SR: Released Iceland-only Von in '97, distraught that the album title All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling was taken.
Brief description of sound
GYBE: Beautiful orchestral tunes with 20-minute run times and huge, monstrous climaxes designed to scare people shitless.
GYBE: Three guitars, a couple basses, various drummers, violins, violas, cellos, French horns, tape loops and some dude workin' the projector.
SR: Standard art-rock guitar effects/vintage keyboards fare augmented by front man Jón Thor Birgisson's creepy, otherworldly soprano -- he sounds like a loaded karaoke bar for whales on Mariah Carey tribute night.
Cultural high-water mark
GYBE: Freak-nasty 2000 double-disc set, Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven!
SR: Nearly comatose single "Svefn-G-Englar" (the "it's yoooooou" song) propelled 2001's Agaetis Byrjun to hipster stardom. Its inclusion on the soundtrack to Vanilla Skyis the only good thing about that flick.
GYBE: Nightmarish, warfare-themed Yanqui U.X.O.
SR: Critic/pointyhead favorite ( ).
Degree of pretension
GYBE: Jesus, dude, it's orchestral rock, not Black Flag. Ideologically, band constantly combats age-old "We are fiercely anticapitalist but must employ capitalism to sell records and thus fund our coffee-fueled anticapitalist rants" self-loathing.
SR: Astronomical. No real album title, no song titles, no lyrics. A conceptual art-damaged mindfuck on par with Kangaroo Jack.
Wacky lyrical content
GYBE: No vocals -- just occasional tape loops. Example: "The car is on fire and there is no driver at the wheel. And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides we're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine and the machine is bleeding to death "
SR: Lyrics all sung in "Hopelandic," a made-up language consisting primarily of eeeeeeeeeeeeee's and oooooooooooo's. Most of the lyrics on ( ) sound like "you sigh," "ewes, hi" or "youse high."
GYBE: Limited mainly to live show tape-trading. Hard to idolize a band when you wouldn't recognize its members if they kicked your ass on the street.
SR: The devout are encouraged to visit Sigur-Ros.com and supply their own lyrics to ( ), which leads to highly amusing interpretations: "Swans are cool / The fires rage / Isä ja / You will / Although things are bad / There is a hope / You say you all alone by the fire / It's on."
Somber political overtones
SR: Understated. Just a "Stop the War in Iraq!" pop-up window on the Web site.
Arty song titles
GYBE: "Motherfucker = Redeemer" (parts 1 and 2).
SR: Agaetis Byrjunincludes such toe- tappers as "Flugufrelsarinn" and "Vidrar Vel Til Loftarasa."
Appropriate venue for listening
SR: That magical Teletubbies fairy land where the sun's, like, this baby's face.
Appropriate films to screen with sound off while CD is playing
GYBE: Blue Velvet, Strange Brew.
SR: The NeverEnding Story, Labyrinth.
Will stoners dig it?
GYBE: Not recommended. Freakish noise collages doth not coexist well with paranoia.
SR: Hell, yeah. ( )should've been entitled Pink Side of the Moon.
Are they hot or not?
GYBE: Beats the hell out of us. Even their live concerts aren't well lit.
SR: In an "Emaciated Lumberjack" sort of way. Turn-ons include sleepy countenances and old-guy beards.
Wacked-out CD packaging
GYBE: Yanqui U.X.O.'s back cover features a diagram charting the major record companies' corporate ties to military weaponry.
SR: Towheaded angelic fetuses; washed-out photos of trees, grass.
Strange behavior during live performances
GYBE: Packing ten or so musicians on a tiny-looking stage, forcing concert reviewers to buy their own tickets (all proceeds benefit an adult literacy organization).
SR: Members lying down on stage during shows and staying there for, oh, 20 minutes.
GYBE: MTV? Get the hell out of town.
SR: The video for track one on ( ) consists of cute kids putting on gas masks and dancing merrily around a postapocalyptic wasteland. Gnarly.
Propensity to talk trash
GYBE: "Radiohead is nothing but a bunch of hypocrites and liars. They are crazy enough to think that everything they say is taken seriously, despite the fact that they belong to a multinational."
SR: It's all about the love.
Adversarial relationship with media
GYBE: Rarely consents to press interviews and nearly always regrets doing so. After the Radiohead-slagging piece appeared in the Dutch rag OOR, Godspeed responded with an open letter referring to the interviewer as "a lost, weak, lonely man" and adding, "I felt a fair amount of misguided empathy towards you I now regret feeling anything at all, and I wish you nothing but continued misery, loneliness, and despair."
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