The shadow of GY!BE looms large over Golden Hymns Sing ‘Hurrah’, but it’s a welcoming shadow, with comforting wings. Less than a year has passed since the first installment of The Great Dystopian Songbook was published, but since then, little has occurred to dispel the pervasive fear of impending apocalypse. The sampled anger of railing protesters is only a side effect: yelling has displaced discourse. The quartet responds by introducing their own periods of contemplation and cacophony. Two of the five tracks (six if a bonus alternative version is counted) clock in at over fifteen minutes, far past the attention span of the average debater or click-baiter, but allegedly the species average. As far as we’re aware, no one has published a study of post-rock fans, but we suspect that their brains operate differently, since a mere glimpse at the track length causes excitement rather than eye-rolling. Yes, some events unfold in increments: dawn, dusk, societal upheaval. But they also reach a tipping point: the explosion of sun across the morning sky, the eruption of guitars and drums that recurs over the course of the hour. The voices are distorted, the music less so: a metaphor of what unites and what divides.
One of the set’s most pristine passages arrives mere minutes into the 16:30 “From the Mouth of Standing Rock/So Too Did The Sun & I Rise O’er Sunrise Highway.” After a segment of quietude, a lone guitar takes the lead and resists all efforts to shout it down. Soon it has support: other guitars, bass, drums. The floodgates are loosed at 6:50, but not for the last time. The music will draw back, regain strength, resurge. Reactionism is met with resolve. Must the weakest arguments always be carried by the loudest voices? Golden Hymns Sing ‘Hurrah’ have the better argument and better amplifier, winning on both fronts. Blood is labor, the result of our efforts, they write. Blood is for the taking back of what is yours. Here too is a hint of GY!BE: a touch of anarchic encouragement.
But there’s also nuance, borne by violin, trumpet and our favorite friend, the glockenspiel, which gets its own billing on “The Bells (Or “I Have Not Been Well”). Counter-intuitively, “On a Winter’s Day” is warm and welcoming. The central piece, “Jimmy’s Song,” is dedicated to an unexpected act of kindness. The band is not ready to give up on hope. Still, the world may tilt in either direction. There may be a need for a third chapter in this songbook. Will its hymns remain bleak, or finally sing ‘hurrah’? (Richard Allen)