Godspeed You Black Emperor,Yanqui U.X.O (2002 / Constellation)

Yanqui U.X.O is the bands second proper album and was recorded by the legendary Steve Albini in Chicago. The record centres around a common theme of destruction from the air, the sleeve notes inform that UXO means ‘Unexploded Ordnance’, landmines, cluster bombs and other niceties. With war looming on the horizon the whole thing seems quite a topical soundtrack to imminent disaster, death and general destruction.

There’s no words and the 5 title less tracks span 70 minutes of huge orchestral space implying some sort of apocalyptic landscape. It can become quite chilling and I do find myself gazing into the middle distance, transfixed by macabre images of innocent people in poor countries being systematically blown to pieces.

The back of the record sleeve shows a hand written gant chart mapping out the connections between producers of horrific weapons and record companies. The record itself continues on the theme of utter despair, it is hopeless and there is nothing anyone can do about it. So entrenched are these organisations within the highest tiers of western society that criticism appears somehow laughable. They’re laughing I’m sure.
It’s a complete record in every sense. Magnificently eerie soundscapes that plunge the listener into consecutive levels of horror and tranquillity all at the same time. There’s Cellos, Clarinets and gorgeously indulgent guitars that all add up to something fantastic, thoughtful but without being up ones own arse. Track 5 stands out, sexy layered guitars with all sorts going on everywhere, building up into a defiant ending with a glimmer of hope.

Peace isn’t really PC any more is it? Aggression is the in thing. Off hand comments designed to demonstrate the fact that you don’t care, because its really hard. This record makes a mockery of all that, somehow giving a sense of proportion to all that unnecessary bereavement. Can peace be Macho? I was touched recently to read about 2 Scottish train drivers who refused to drive trains containing weapons destined for MOD establishments. Despite not getting paid they stood by their principles and were admiringly backed up by their union. In amongst the human filth that inhabits this earth there are decent and kind people thinking for themselves. This is what Yanqui U.X.O is all about.

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