Without a doubt, the quality of Montreal’s bands has never been as good as it is right now. Check it: Colin Stetson, the Great Sabatini, Maica Mia, the Besnard Lakes, Suuns, Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Preterite, Voivod, Shalabi Effect, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, Tim Hecker, Menace Ruine, Ensorcelor, les Momies de Palerme, etc., etc. I am of course missing a ton of other truly thrilling bands here, but you get the gist.
For my money though, the one band that truly possesses the ruler for which all of these bands are to be measured is our local treasure, Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
After an almost decade-long hiatus, GY!BE proved stronger than ever with a tour that had the blogosphere fawning while a whole new generation of fans began worshipping at their feet. But could they still cut it in the writing department after such a lengthy sojourn? Released yesterday is their fifth album, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, and I’ll be damned if this isn’t their most powerful musical statement yet.
Although they still remain kings of the crawling crescendo, things get out of the gate fairly quickly (albeit by Godspeed standards) on opener “Mladic.” Easily a shining jewel in their already ornate crown, this sludgy, psyched-out jammer is masterfully composed — the band’s ability to scale panoramic heights is without equal.
Perhaps this is the album’s biggest achievement. While there is no shortage of “epic” bands populating the underground, most tend to lose their focus over the creeping minutes, or get bogged down and bloated as the seconds click. Godspeed, on the other hand, retain that emotional urgency, while expertly easing into sharp hairpin turns (that would have most “post-rock” bands colliding with the guard rail) and commandeering dynamic shifts like no other.
On “Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable,” the band burrows under the skin with an uneasy arpeggio and theremin-like guitars that are hauntingly beautiful. Definitely more to do with the cinematic sounds of Hitchcock composer Bernard Herrmann than most of the current crop of instrumental post-rock humps. If the midway point doesn’t get your heart leaping up in your throat, you better check your pulse.
By the final 10 minutes, the band is able to switch gears without jamming them, plunging back into darkness while letting slivers of light poke through. This is a smooth ride right up until the final moments of the righteous rave-up that puts the Behemoth to bed.
If you want to hear just how good a Montreal band can get, or were just wondering whether GY!BE can still raise goosebumps, this record is utterly mandatory.
Okay street urchins, here’s the gigs:
Wednesday — If you’re diggin’ all of the greasy goods springing from the loins of the In the Red label, you’re not going to want to miss the bubblegum garage punk of Cheap Girls with the Front Bottoms at Casa. Definitely swipe their awesome slab, Fantastic Explanations, off of their merch table. Think amped-up Soft Boys.
The Corona Theatre will play host to the return of the blues stomp of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion with the perfect opener, Toronto’s Catl. If you thought that the man has gotten long in the tooth, one has to look no further than his new jammer Meat and Bone for proof that he’s still brimming with piss and vinegar.
One of the best live rock ’n’ roll bands you can ever witness, Riverboat Gamblers, will obliterate Underworld with Cobra Skulls and the BCASA. Prepare to get messy.
Thursday — The Sacred Bones label has been releasing some serious jams lately, but Amen Dunes remains their flagship band. Check them out at Casa with JLK and a solo performance from les Momies de Palerme’s Marie Davidson.
If you feel like letting your backbones slide to greasy rock ’n’ roll, punk and raw soul, I’ll be spinning dusty sides as a guest DJ on Mathieu Beauséjour’s weekly Jeudi Nasty at Panda Bar.
At Divan Orange, the Muscadettes launch their eponymous EP, but best of all, the night caps off with punk rock karaoke, which is everything you think it is: a live band thrashing to the oldies while you get up and squeal along to Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown,” etc. Guaranteed to rock yer tits off.
Friday — If you miss the old days when Tortoise and the Chicago jazz/rock scene of the ’90s reigned, don’t miss the Sea and Cake at Il Motore with Fiery Furnaces’ Matthew Friedberger.
For those who like to get weepy, don’t miss the whispered hush of Cat Power at Metropolis.
Saturday — Toronto’s Ketamines will unleash holy hell at l’Esco with Vancouver’s Shitty Neighbours and Fleshmoves.
One of Montreal’s sludgiest, Dopethrone release their third effort, the aptly titled III at l’Absynthe with support from Philadelphia’s doom-laden Ominous Black, Ottawa’s sludge masters Collider, the hardcore of Toronto’s Teethmarks, and Quebec stoners the Stoned Horses. This will be the last show presented from Pelecanus.net for a good while so don’t sleep on this one.
For all of you grind and extreme thrash fans, don’t miss the Forum with Black Piranha and Drogue at Bistro de Paris.
For a perfect night of garagey stomp, check out the masked duo of Corona Ferox with les Zerreurs and Montreal garage legend Skip Jensen at Barfly.
Monday — Although Japan’s Zoobombs were just in town for Pop, this is guaranteed to be their last stint here for a while. Easily one of the best live bands you can ever see, Zoobombs will light their fuse at Divan Orange with Leamers and Il Danse Avec les Genoux. ■
Current obsession: Mark Hollis, self-titled