Sigur Rós / Godspeed You! Black Emperor

() (MCA) / Yanqui U.X.O. (Constellation)

If you think incensed player haters restrict their animosity to large-living hip-hop stars, mentally unstable R&B songbirds and Fred Durst, you obviously haven't gotten a swig of the Hater-ade currently being spilled online over these two unlikely outfits: Icelandic tone poets Sigur Rós and French-Canadian noiseniks Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Long story short, folks think Sigur Rós make drippy, emotionally manipulative Muzak embraced by American hipsters because it comes from Björk's homeland. Depending on your taste for drowsy, incredibly slow-moving space-rock largely sung in a made-up language exactly one person speaks, this is not entirely unfair. But the genius behind the music on (), Sigur Rós' MCA debut, is how little it makes an issue of its own weightiness, its Important Music overtones: Compare the showy formal manipulation on Radiohead's last two albums with the restrained ebb and flow of the guitars moaning around a brittle piano figure in the third song here--all eight tunes are untitled, something else that probably doesn't sit well with detractors--and these soft-spoken heartstring-tuggers just seem like guys who live in a place with not much to do outside.

GY!BE gets flak for refusing to speak softly. The Montreal collective uses its instrumental, equally slow-moving music as a platform for political grievances, both implicitly and explicitly--Yanqui U.X.O.'s artwork features a flow chart linking the five major record labels to weapons makers, and the band's bullish relationship with the media has inched its way into industry folklore. Yet even if the Steve Albini-recorded material on the band's third album is its least interesting--mostly soft-then-loud noodling, save a lovely bit of muted In a Silent Way rumbling halfway through--why should the band's activism provoke so much scorn? Steve Earle can't be the only one we want to voice doubts about American foreign policy, can he? Save the hate for Rod Stewart's new one.

 
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