Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Best Song Ever: "God Bless Our Dead Marines"

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[Thee] Silver Mount Zion [Memorial Orchestra and Tra-la-la Band
Horses In The Sky, Constellation Records, 2005

Listen: "God Bless Our Dead Marines"

For the uninitiated, A Silver Mt. Zion (or whatever cockamamie variant they use with each album) is one of the offshoots of the late Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This, the leadoff track to their 2005 effort Horses in the Sky simply fucking destroys. Much more vocal oriented than most ASMZ tracks (as is the rest of the album), this song finds the perfect counterpoint between the instrumental tension and vocal lead, and also serves as an ideal showcase for guitarist/singer Efrim Menuck's voice and lyric style.

But that, really, is beside the point. The slow crescendo, the style swapping build, the climax, and the epilogue fit together perfectly. The first movement is very sharp and unwieldy; almost cumbersome. As the song progresses, it smooths out subtly and begins building around a European folk figure, before eventually dissolving into the fourth, incredibly intense movement. Maybe I'm just too easily led (or fooled), but it seems almost impossible to keep my pulse from speeding up constantly throughout this section. The percussion here is amazing, despite its simplicity; and compliments the traditional GYBE build nicely.

But its the line "I love my dog/and she loves me/The world's a mess/and so are we" that really just works. Critics and fans have a tendency (rightly or wrongly) to constantly compare ASMZ to its parent group, and here, it works perfectly. To hear one of the faceless musicians behind Godspeed's bleak, fascist soundscape sing about love, of all things, regardless of context, lends it a vulnerability that is almost impossible to achieve otherwise.

This vulnerability is further exploited on the choral round at the end of the song, and implies (however bleakly) survival, and, in that, hope. And shows, for all the droning feedback walls, noise and impossible pretensions, human hearts do beat after all.


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