My Favorite Album: Jay Baruchel on Godspeed You! Black Emperor's "Yanqui U.X.O." | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, August 13th, 2022  

My Favorite Album: Jay Baruchel on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “Yanqui U.X.O.”

"It was great music to write to. It was great music to just smoke weed to. It was great music to do fucking everything."

Feb 03, 2020 Issue #66 - My Favorite Album - Angel Olsen and Sleater-Kinney
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Godspeed You! Black Emperor‘s Yanqui U.X.O is just the soundtrack to a fucking mental odyssey. I grew up in Montréal and if you were a kid in Montréal in the ‘90s you obviously knew who the fuck Godspeed were. They were film students from Montréal that just started making the craziest, darkest, heaviest music ever recorded and I had listened to a few records and I’d always listen to them with the caveat from my friends that there’s no record of theirs that sounds like what it’s like to see them live. But I still dug it and you still fucking vibed on them hard and it was great music to write to. It was great music to just smoke weed to. It was great music to do fucking everything. For stoners like me it scratched the itch that I suspect Phish scratches for other people. This is jam music for me, for people who have a chip on their shoulder, who read a lot of sci-fi and comics. My connection to it was pure and explainable by two things. I’ve always loved guitar rock and I’ve always loved film scores. And when you kind of put those things together in the Gen X, hipster, Montréal film school context, you get Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

So fast-forward I’m at the Rialto Theater in Montréal, and Godspeed take the stage. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them live but there’s like a dozen of them and they have two fucking projectionists showing crazy black and white photography and they have a string section and two drummers and all this fucking shit, and all of their stuff is just a slow burn to a fucking crazy climax. And it was one of the only times I’ve seen an entire room of people-the entire audience was sitting downbut every single person was head-banging in their seat, and it was amazing. As soon as Godspeed started doing one of their guitar wander rambles that develops into a 20-minute fucking ode to the apocalypse, everyone got into it, the entire place reeked of marijuana, and I was like, “Oh, fuck, this is the thing. This is whenever I heard old farts talking about going to see a concert with crazy iconic moments, I’m living one.” And I just didn’t want it to fucking end.

When I was 18 I got a gig in LA doing a TV show called Undeclared. And so I was on the other side of the continent. And not just like in Oregon or something, I was in LA. And I came down to LA in the throes of the Bush/Gore/Florida election nonsense. And then I was in California for September 11, and then for the ensuing invasion of Iraq and all that shit. My father passed away when I was 21. And I would go on to have a fucking nervous breakdown when I was 24. And so everything was incredibly on my sleeve, and the world was incredibly transitional, and it felt incredibly fatal. Everything was fatalistic, and I was like anxious as hell and scared shitless of California and that music all matched everything I was feeling, which was dread and anxiety provided by moments of elation and quiet. And every single Godspeed song ever could be described by that sentence.

I definitely go back to Yanqui at least a few times a year. I’ve related to their music in a massive way. It’s everything I like. I like big ideas and big emotions and they seem to write the music that match it. And just growing up in the ‘90s in Montréal. I went to fine art school. I was in as lefty and counterculture a place as exists anywhere in the Western world. And their songs, their artwork, and all their records, it all matched and jived with all the shit kids were talking about. I just grew up in the spot from which they mined their aesthetic and everything they had to say. So it always didn’t just ring true and authentic to me, it was also terribly familiar. There will never be a band that does that for me again.

(Jay Baruchel is a Canadian writer, actor, and director who has appeared in such films as Tropic Thunder, Knocked Up, and This Is the End, as well as television shows such as Undeclared and Man Seeking Woman. He is perhaps best known, however, for voicing the character of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III in the long-running How to Train Your Dragon movie and television franchise.)

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 66 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online. For the issue we interviewed musicians and actors about their all-time favorite album.]

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