Sunday Jukebox: Take this award and shove it

In recognition of tonight’s Academy Awards Gala, I thought I’d show what happened last fall when the Polaris Music Prize attempted to honour Canadian post-rock/drone gurus Godspeed You! Black Emperor. GY!BE responded:

A FEW WORDS REGARDING THIS POLARIS PRIZE THING

hello kanada.
hello kanadian music-writers.

thanks for the nomination thanks for the prize- it feels 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.

and much respect to the freelancers especially, because freelancing is a hard fucking gig, and almost all of us are freelancers now, right? falling and scrambling and hustling through these difficult times?

so yes, we are grateful, and yes we are humble and we are shy to complain when we’ve been acknowledged thusly- BUT HOLY SHIT AND 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 fucking needs is an awards show” is not a thought that’s ever crossed our minds.

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 FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.

these are hard times for everybody. and musicians’ blues are pretty low on the list of things in need of urgent correction BUT AND BUT 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.

give the money to the kids let ‘em put on their own goddamn parties, give the money to the olds and let them try to write opuses in spite of, but let the muchmusic videostars fight it out in the inconsequential middle, without gov’t. culture-money in their pockets.

us we’re gonna use the money to try to set up a program so that prisoners in quebec have musical instruments if they need them…

amen and amen.

apologies for being such bores,
we love you so much / our country is fucked,
xoxoxox
godspeed you! black emperor

(Yes, it’s an old story, but it’s still pretty epic.)

Anyway, here’s a track off the “award winning” album,  ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!:

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26 thoughts on “Sunday Jukebox: Take this award and shove it

  1. We’re trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
    And Ellen is interviewing celebrities on the red carpet

    I love GY!BE, but those dudes are just no fun at parties.

    Also glad to see that Kanada gets sent to the K hole along with Amerika.

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    • It’s not a bad letter in itself (though, and I’m not Kanadian so who knows, “current horrifying malaise” may be overstating things a tad – and anyway, isn’t a ‘malaise’ by definition sort of an ‘ill-defined blah’ – how can “meh” be “horrifying”? That’s like a “blinding shade of beige”).

      But good god it almost makes Bono’s most speechifying moments look positively tame.

      If we ever have a Mindless Diversions party, it’s gonna have to follow MD rules. Extraneous K’s will be strictly forbidden.

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  2. I know I’m supposed to cheer for stuff like this, but I have a hard time not rolling my eyes. Mind you, I do think that this letter is better executed than most of these “I’m too cool to accept your bourgeois recognition” thingies. But still.

    It reminds me of the scene from the movie Impromtu (the one about Chopin and George Elliot) where all of the artists who are being financially supported by a rich benefactor and his family do a semi-improvised play for that family that mocks them for being such uncool, non-hipster boors that the ultra-cool artists have to put up with in order to take their money.

    In that movie — as with all of the more modern and seemly unawarely cliched similar declarations by artists, musicians, actors and writers — I can never quite decide if there is a total disconnect of how the hip are unaware of who pays for their self-important lifestyles, or whether it is simply cynical and well-crafted bit of PR meant to build a marketable “street creed” and further ingratiate themselves to their fan base.

    I confess, I tend to suspect that it is the latter.

    Hence the urge to roll eyes.

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      • i didn’t but it’s a very gybe thing to write. i mean i have a hard time believing the whatever this thing awards thingy was didn’t know this would be the end result. they get a pass for making one of the best albums ever (not this one though).

        how weird would the charity thing be, though, if you were like a canadian junkie who beat your grandmother to death with a viola for drug money and then you got a violin? you’d be all “shit, i can’t even play this thing.”

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      • ,

        I have a problem with them whining about how we shouldn’t have an awards show when the ice caps are melting, etc., etc., when they’re not doing anything but piddling around in a band. Or maybe driving to one of their concerts doesn’t produce CO2, or playing their guitars functions as a carbon sink.

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      • specifically an awards show sponsored by toyota, hence the ice caps.

        i dunno, man, it’s gybe. it’s basically a runoff (or root cause) from the aesthetic they’ve cultivated for almost two decades.

        i think so highly of f#a# infinity that i could wake up tomorrow, read a headline “gybe admits they’re ‘always been kind of into hitler'” and shrug.

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      • “You mean a company that’s been a leader in hybrid technology?”

        i guess? until i moved to ‘murica i wasn’t much up on the news involving four wheels. anyway the point would be fairly simply reflected – beyond the whole “this is obviously invective for which they preemptively apologize” thing – that they’re still an automotive company etc etc global warming etc etc something something etc.

        you teach college, dude, this should be fairly old hat to you, no?

        though this does bring up that it’s too bad mindless diversions has the #nopolitics thing because there’s a really good essay/fistfight to be had over the whole “artistic beliefs – how low will you go until you say no?” thing.

        i mean, i’d literally be ok with their being sympathetic to adolf hitler, that’s how good f#a# infinity is. something about global warming, a topic i give not less than 1% of a fig by volume, can’t even yank the meter.

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      • both Lift Yr Fists… and the Slow Riot… EP, are just as excellent as F#A#…IMO.

        The moral of the story, for anyone rolling their eyes at the letter, is to check out the music, which is well worth your time.

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      • “both Lift Yr Fists… and the Slow Riot… EP, are just as excellent as F#A#…IMO.”

        man now you’re worse than hitler, which means gybe just admires you more.

        anyway rank ordering:

        1. f#a#
        2. slow riot
        3. lift yr
        4. yanqui uxo
        5. don’t bend

        it’s a pretty big gap between 3 and 4 but i find it hard to say that f#a# does not stand alone as a work that synthesized a million streams that came before into something that was copied a million times after, something that truly stood out in its time as a piece of music that everyone could agree was special, different, unique.

        it truly was the high water mark of the 90s.

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      • I understand the urge to roll eyes, as there is definitely some self-righteousness going on. But a few things:

        1. They note that their complaints aren’t the most important thing in the world and they express gratitude and humility in being awarded this prize.

        2. Their complaints against the Canadian music scene and the institutions therein seem pretty on-point to me (though I am no longer well-versed in the goings on in the scene, so I might be wrong there). This line, “but let the muchmusic videostars fight it out in the inconsequential middle, without gov’t. culture-money in their pockets,” really stands out to me as a critique of the Canadian music industry. Money rolls in to certain aspects of the industry, but it never really gets down to the musicians or the local scenes.

        3. They do offer alternatives as to what the people behind Polaris could do: shittier galas that put more emphasis on the artists and remove the competition aspect.

        4. Call them hypocrites if you like, but it sounds like they’re actually going to do some good with the prize money.

        5. Polaris had to know what was going to happen. This is a pretty non-corporate band–a band that has been around a long time, had a lot of critical praise and is only now getting an award. It reeks of opportunism.

        6. It’s great that Toyota is leading the way in hybrid technology, but lessening the cost of the scourge of automobiles isn’t actually reducing the scourge. Toyota clearly still wants people to drive and pollute (because we still have an outsized reliance on cars and most cars pollute (a lot), therefore driving=polluting, hybrids or not).

        7. dhex is wrong. Don’t Bend is a great album. It may not be their best, but that doesn’t meant it’s not great.

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  3. “’Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, by Godspeed You! Black Emperor”

    Did someone give them a good deal on exclamation marks, or does the Kanadian government subsidize punctuation?

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