The seminal tag is one that has been stitched into the reminiscences of all too many an LP of late. So commonplace is its usage that the adjective is now often utilised to ultimately define records without refute, some of which have only been about for a scant scattering of year. It’s a catastrophic shame; a disagreeable bastardisation of the English language, as it seems to ensure that certain albums in few ways enduring engage for a far more protracted period than they perhaps ought, thereby frequently overshadowing works of a superior, if consequently suppressed craft. Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord Is Dead, the sophomore effort from Canadian post-rock titans Do Make Say Think, is a recording to have suffered such a grim fate. It is one to be filed alongside Horse Stories, Tortoise, Rock Action, Ágætis byrjun, White Light from the Mouth of Infinity, Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven!, and so forth though one that has since been forgotten by most, thus that it be disinterred and commemorated by ATP’s newly resuscitated Don’t Look Back series feels poignantly apt.
These sorts of single album shows – the tracklisting scrupulously fired through in its entirety, and a “nerve-wracking experience” in itself according to guitarist Justin Small – serve to make any given work all the more accessible. For though a transcendent experience for the unwavering acolyte (indeed, the default expression throughout is one of profound rumination) they prise open a most inviting portal into the abyssal back catalogues of any which artist to those less well informed. Know and like whichever record? Well, you’ll most likely enjoy the show equally. Tonight’s material, as such, is largely predetermined though once Goodbye Enemy Airship has voyaged off only into memory, they proceed to jog said memory with “songs from some of our five other records.” This begins with the glimmering, and immediately all the more engaging Do off of their latest, Other Truths, and goes on to comprise the rattling clatter of Auberge Le Mouton Noir; the martial vim of The Universe!, amongst others.
As Small validly confesses, there’s a fair bit of pressure on the Don’t Look Back-styled showing as inevitably, each and every record will bear a different meaning to every different person that is to experience it. This may be impacted upon according to the various ambiences, places, and differing spaces – both geographical and mental – in which it is heard. Often a first listen proves the most formative, I find. Thus they play out this arguably overly long encore with the weight lifted, as it signals an ebullient shift as they float to a more euphoric tune. Euphoria? Perhaps not. Euphony, though? Naturally.
However, if lighter on what is a quite leaden anguish it lacks that same immersive, all-purpose intensive sense of feeling inherent to Goodbye Enemy Airship. And although they retain the voided beer can-quivering volumes of a veritably ruinous Goodbye Enemy Airship that is dealt beamed in infernal lighting to match Small’s dark, satanic open strings and the malevolent blurts of brass to come courtesy of both Ohad Benchetrit and Charles Spearin, I can’t help but find this extended coda to be largely desultory. Yes, the songs are still impeccably composed though Do Make Say Think are an album band, and as such are at their finest when reciting. And recite they do with an unerring, and indeed masterful fidelity.
I’ve always felt that while no album should be judged by its sleeve artwork, they can often be gauged by their audience. Nonetheless that patently is not quite the case with Goodbye Enemy Airship, as it can be seen to attract a broad cross-cultural demographic spanning suits losing their proverbial ordure as though one of those hugely fortunate few immortalised forevermore in Jonathan Caouette’s All Tomorrow’s Parties, stood alongside another enwrapped in a Nigerian football shirt extolling the virtues of tourism and Eisenhower alike. Broadly speaking, it’s a rainbow miscellany. Musically, though, it’s of one oppressively tenebrous shade.
Hank Williams croaks Alone & Forsaken across the PA and from beyond the grave, his rasping words steely as ever; his dirty, Deep South blues here somehow revolutionary in feel. These too have been immortalised; unchanged over time and similarly, twelve years on, Goodbye Enemy Airship hasn’t aged a day. It’s testament to the troupe’s mutual understanding of one another that it tonight feels thus – this quite categorically isn’t akin to doing Surfer Rosa or something. For once the raggedy, stilted guitar lines of When Day Chokes the Night first chime – stifled by a patina of rust not so much accumulated over time as impressed upon its original recording, no less – the apparent aesthetic is as terse, staccato, and torpid as it ever was.
Bundled up in added, or at least previously borderline inaudible swathes of keyboard, the segueing Minmin moves swifter and has seemingly shifted with the times somewhat. It sounds newer; novel, almost as it shacks up in an almost psychedelic skin. Like a freewheeler rumbling on to certain demise, it comes early as expected to epitomise the defiantly doleful, and frequently mournful themes of the album as a complete whole. This steady build continues – as it does on record – translated into the live milieu without misinterpretation. The timeless, sax-shagged, and visceral riffage of The Landlord Is Dead prompts a fervent “Yeah!” or few, before a strobe overload accompanies the conversion from simmering brass to spasming tremolo frenzy to combine in an inundation of the omnisensorial that’s as overwhelming as drowning.
Appositely, if Williams’ unknowing intro was built upon down to the river to pray sorta stuff then the red-blooded denouement to this main set, Goodbye Enemy Airship, pertains to a similar general tenor, though this time it’s a more down to the death-infested Ganges to purge. It concludes an hour in which Do Make Say Think have, once again, forced themselves against the parameters of epic to come to redefine. Some slump in exhaustion; others bicker and quarrel for reasons unknown. Static etiquette had, until now, been standard procedure. Though even the azure drench of a nearby fire escape fails to dampen the effect of these deeply meaningful resonances; organic reveries meritorious of utmost revere.
Rapture is reserved only for the closing moments so as not to interrupt the unabatingly intense transcendence of it all and though effusive, it is in no way hyperbolic for this one was a wildly profound, and provocatively vehement performance. Rarely is the music able to literally speak for itself in an epoch overly fascinated by fad, just as the abstraction of the album has been widely replaced by lone songs streamed only once, and so forth. Though these are notions dispelled by Do Make Say Think. And similarly, just as independent music is becoming an increasingly divisive device amongst critics, enthusiasts, and dispassionates alike, it’s an oddity worth cherishing to find oneself on the exact same wavelength as absolutely everyone else in such a colourful room. Upon entrance, we were all given a flyer eulogising the band’s instrumental paeans to the seemingly pained, and we’re all reading from the same hymn sheet tonight – lost souls again found, and congregated to sing the eternal praises of the instrumental.