O Canada, thank you for the gift of post-rock anti-corporates Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The Montreal band have won the Canadian Polaris Music Prize for last year’s album Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, but refused to attend the award ceremony, choosing instead to donate their winnings to charity and release a rather blunt, anti-corporate statement.
Godspeed have downplayed, and even criticised, the nature of any music awards program driven by sponsors and competition, and announced that they will donate their $30,000 CAD (roughly $31,000 AUD) prize to charities which provide musical equipment and lessons to people in the Quebec prison system.
In a statement on the matter released via their record label’s website, the band called out the disingenuous nature of the award and ceremony seemed, and that true recognition of the talents of their contemporaries may be better received:
“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…
“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.”
Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! beat out a number of huge albums from last year in order to claim the top prize, including Shrines by Purity Ring, the self-title debut from post-hardcore band METZ, Heartthrob by Tegan and Sara, Synthetica by Metric and New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light by Colin Stetson. The winner of the prize selected by a jury of 11, who make up part of a larger panel of over 200 Canadian journalists, broadcasters, writers and programmers.
James Keast, the overseer of the Polaris Prize’s Grand Jury, emphasised the time and effort which went into selecting a winner, saying in a statement:
“The level of intellectual, emotional and technical consideration given to each album was, as always, impressive, and I’m very proud to be included in this collection of music-obsessed peers.”
It’s easy to see the contrast between Godspeed’s reaction to an awards prize and that of Kevin Shields, frontman of shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine. Shields was furious that his band wasn’t even wasn’t even nominated for the 2013 Mercury Prize because their album mbv was released completely independently. Well, at least Canada seems to accept the nature of independent music.
Check out Godspeed’s complete statement below, as well as our review of their mammoth Sydney concert from earlier this year.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Full Polaris Prize Statement:
A FEW WORDS REGARDING THIS POLARIS PRIZE THING
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,
godspeed you! black emperor