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Godspeed You Black Emperor!

Do you believe in rock 'n' roll? Or to be more succinct, can music save your mortal soul? Ask the nine Canadians in Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and they'll probably give you a quizzical look, turn to each other, nod in apocalyptic agreement, then proceed to blow your brains out. And they'll take 45 minutes to do it. And you'll love it. That is to say, yes. And yes. That's the best, most valuable virtue of the enigmatic Montreal band's music, a shape-shifting soup of soundtrack drift, rock propulsion, pop temerity, and new-classical rigor: the resurrection of virgin ideas about musical transcendence. For here we have a hunk of silicon more steeped in human fluids and feeling than even Radiohead's latest effort. Don't get me wrong: I adore Kid A, but Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven!, Godspeed's second full-length, is closer to the hum inside my veins -- a resolutely humanist space-rock, the hemp to Thom Yorke's plastic, the Close Encounters to his 2001.

That's due, of course, in large part to the fact that Godspeed still uses real instruments, relics Yorke seemingly tired of after the OK Computer avalanche. But here they sound as interstellar as Kid A's microchips, heaving and swelling and bellowing and kissing, searching hard for impossible answers to impossible questions. Like...? Um, hard to say: "We're trying maybe to tell a story sometimes of where we're at," they told English paper New Musical Express last year in a rare interview. OK, then. Right. I see. But you really do see when it all collides around your head, as it does about 20 minutes into "Sleep," the first piece on the second of these two discs, electric guitars sending bloody, reverb-drenched valentines to a faraway string section over the mighty pounding of a cavalry marching a few leagues below. Cause and effect slip away at that moment, as Godspeed reaches for the light at the end of its tunnel: We may be a generation lost in space, but here we are, all in one place.


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