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Thee Silver Mt. Zion - Fuck Off Get Free We Pour... Album Cover

Thee Silver Mt. Zion - Fuck Off Get Free We Pour...

Reviewed by
8.8
Thee Silver Mt. Zion - Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything
Record Label: Constellation Records
Release Date: January 21, 2014
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
It’s not really fair to call Thee Silver Mt. Zion a “side-project,” even though the band’s members are far better known for being a part of Montreal post-rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Not only has TSMZ been far more active in the last decade, with Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything they’ve proven beyond any doubt that their music is much more than a mere extension of what Godspeed does.

Despite the delicate, composed nature of their early work, Mt. Zion mostly talks about themselves as a punk rock band. The title of their third album, This Is Our Punk Rock suggests that to them, punk is something that transcends stylistic boundaries and is even deeper than the music itself. And this makes even more sense given that TSMZ have always been a political band, as evidenced by their songs and by the way they operate, both of which are informed by the pseudo-anarchist egalitarianism of the DIY ethos.

Furthermore, while their prog-like long form compositional style is pretty far-removed from the blitzkrieg of punk, TSMZ records have gotten noisier and messier as the band has developed. Building off of previous loud guitar jams—like “I Built Myself a Metal Bird,” from their last LP, 2010’s Kollaps Tradixionales—Efrim Menuck’s fuzz-drenched, often psychedelic guitar work is mostly given center stage on Fuck Off Get Free. Between that and a vocal performance that is far more emotive and enthralling than ever before, it’s easy to see Menuck as the capstone of the band. But in another nod to the egalitarian ethos of punk, Menuck and TSMZ roundly reject the notion that anyone is the “frontman” or “leader” of the group. And this album mostly proves them right.

After about seven minutes of shuffling 6/8 drums, jubilant trumpets, Menuck’s raucous haze of vibrato, and an ominous “chorus” where every member of the band chants the album’s title in unison, opening track “Fuck Off Get Free (For the Island of Montreal)” abruptly switches time signatures and suddenly everything gets really, really heavy. And I mean like, “whoa have these guys been listening to Sleep?” heavy. David Payant’s plodding, thunderous percussion blends with Menuck’s guitar and Thierry Amar’s gloriously distorted contrabass to create a gripping moment of pure climactic awe.

It’s not too dissimilar from those moments in Godspeed compositions when everything sort of “maxes out” both in terms of volume and emotion. But unlike Godspeed, Thee Silver Mt. Zion generally doesn’t follow the pattern of “slow, moving build-up; introduce chaos; release tension; wind down; rinse; repeat.” When a Mt. Zion song kicks into a higher gear, the relevant metaphor would be something more akin to a door being kicked in than a summit being obtained. Consider “What We Loved Was Not Enough,” the centerpiece of the record’s latter portion. The song begins with a haunting and sparse organ line paired with Menuck’s tortured rasp, and while there is some “build-up” for the next two minutes, when the full band comes in it’s with a startling drum fill and a huge riff shared by Menuck and the group’s dual violinists Jessica Moss and Sophie Trudeau. There’s no carefully constructed escalation or nuance to it, just unadulterated power.

Moments like these show that the group knows what they’re talking about when they reject the notion that any one member Thee Silver Mt. Zion is more essential than another. And although the group has weathered numerous lineup changes in the past, their current five members that appear on Fuck Off Get Free and on Kollaps have a natural synergy that has led to the band’s most inspired recordings to date, compositions that have captured the breathtaking beauty and intensity of a TSMZ or GY!BE live experience.

But unlike Godspeed, this band is not an instrumental one, and although it’s certainly possible to glean a sort of widescreen apocalyptic grandeur from the music alone, Menuck’s lyrics are inevitably what give Fuck Off Get Free its message. Echoing themes that bubble beneath the surface of all his work both with TSMZ and Godspeed, Menuck spins vitriol and tenderness, desperation and hope into a narrative that is both vivid and somewhat frightening. Imagery like “There'll be war in our cities / And riots at the mall / There'll be blood on our doorsteps / And panics at the ball” calls to mind the stifling dreariness and decay of Godspeed’s masterpiece Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. When he’s not predicting imminent destruction, Menuck exalts struggle against injustice in songs like “Austerity Blues,” which also sees him turn the line “Lord let my son live long enough to see that mountain torn down” into a hook. Or at least it starts off that way; by the end of the song it’s really more of a battle-cry than anything.

The band also makes use of a few interstitial spoken-word recordings a la Godspeed. Two of these recordings focus on the nature of being a modern musician, with the first featuring a women speaking against the sexism so often imbedded in rock, and in the second a man earnestly states that for the modern musician more than ever, “music is a way of life.” Thee Silver Mt. Zion seem to give a lot of credence to the idea of unflinching honesty in art, which helps explain why the last song on the album is presented as a tribute to late rapper Capital Steez. Steez was a fierce young rapper and member of New York’s Pro Era crew alongside Joey Bada$$. He put out a vehement and politically incisive mixtape AmeriKKKan Korruption in late 2012 before committing suicide shortly thereafter. It’s a story with a sad ending, but in dedicating a song to him TSMZ are celebrating the passion that young artists like Steez pour into their art more than mourning the loss of his too-young life.

All of this presents Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything as more of a call to action than a slow march to death. It’s all in the title: the band sheds light on the darkness and injustice in our society, flips the bird to the powers that be, and urges freedom of personal expression above all else. Along the way we get some crushing guitar work, occasional moments of ear-splitting noise, and oh did I mention distorted contrabass? I don’t know about you, but that all sounds pretty punk rock to me.

8.75/10
 
Displaying posts 1 - 7 of 7
11:50 PM on 02/03/14
#2
IWasHerHorse
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Nice review. Not my favorite SMZ release, but that still puts it above most other bands. The two shorter tracks didn't really do a lot for me.
04:20 PM on 02/04/14
#3
Zamilton Nerfy
is goin to Bear Prom
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Been lovin' this release, thanks for the very thorough and well-informed review! That random tribute to Capital Steez was great, and Take Away These Early Grave Blues has been quite the jam for me lately.
10:21 AM on 02/06/14
#4
Chris Collum
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Nice review. Not my favorite SMZ release, but that still puts it above most other bands. The two shorter tracks didn't really do a lot for me.

Been lovin' this release, thanks for the very thorough and well-informed review! That random tribute to Capital Steez was great, and Take Away These Early Grave Blues has been quite the jam for me lately.

Thanks for reading! Fantastic record.
12:43 PM on 02/09/14
#5
Archael
listens to good music
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aoty right fucking here! haven't heard have a nice life's yet so we'll see.
09:36 PM on 02/09/14
#6
leftapart
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Line 3: 'Not only'...?
10:28 AM on 02/10/14
#7
Chris Collum
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Line 3: 'Not only'...?
Nice catch, thanks. I'm a grammar / spelling nazi so little things like that irk me when they slip past my eye.

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