Sometimes, it seems as if the best reward for Godspeed You! Black Emperor would be to just burn everything down and start over.
The famously leftist and doom-saying experimental Montreal combo won this year’s Polaris Prize (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys) for its album “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” It was the band’s first new album in a decade, and it earned enthusiastic praise from those corners of the music world for whom a new GY!BE suite of 10-minute noise drones is the equivalent of the arrival of “Grand Theft Auto V.” (This includes us).
The band -- unsurprisingly -- had decidedly mixed feelings about the award.
In a statement released on its label Constellation, the group said it was “nice to be acknowledged by the Troubled Motherland when we so often feel orphaned here. and much respect for all y’all who write about local bands, who blow that horn loudly -- because that trumpeting is crucial and necessary and important... so yes, we are grateful, and yes we are humble and we are shy to complain when we’ve been acknowledged thusly...”
But then it begins, in sublime GY!BE fashion:
”...HOLY COW -- we’ve been plowing our field on the margins of weird culture for almost 20 years now, and “this scene is pretty cool but what it really ... needs is an awards show” is not a thought that’s ever crossed our minds.”
The band also had terse words for the current conservative Canadian government, and Polaris’ sponsor Toyota:
“3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=
-- Holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.
-- Organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all.
-- Asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS ... INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.”
The band did not appear at the Polaris ceremony, and Constellation’s Ian Ilavsky accepted on its behalf. Godspeed was even skeptical of the Polaris ceremonial party itself: “If the point of this prize and party is acknowledging music-labor performed in the name of something other than quick money, well then maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlords. and maybe a party thusly is long overdue -- it would be truly nice to enjoy that hang, somewhere sometime where the point wasn’t just lazy money patting itself on the back.”
The band will give its $30,000 prize winnings to establish music education programs in Quebec prisons. And naturally, Godspeed signed off of the communique in classic form --
“apologies for being such bores,
we love you so much / our country is ...,