Nobody sounds quite like Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra. This is our Punk Rock, declares their 2003 album, and the aesthetics are there. This is protest music from a chamber band with passionate, but never romantic, scorn filled, angry, andever-hopeful lead and group vocals. Efrim’s vocals are the Marmite selling point; you either love them or you hate them. Once you’ve made that decision, and few people seem sold immediately, you are in for some of the most truthful and from the heart music out there.
The immediate comparison is to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. That is granted, being as most of the band also play in GY!BE, but the ease of comparison has been made more difficult with each subsequent release; Thee Silver Mt Zion have become their own beast.
‘Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything’ is Thee Silver Mt Zion’s seventh studio album. What struck me immediately was the overall heaviness of the tracks; the filthy fuzzed out guitars of Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island Of Montreal), the driving drums in Take Away These Early Grave Blues; contrasted with the lullaby qualities of Little Ones Run and the safely (for TSMZ anyway) played What We Loved Was Not Enough. It is because of this that the strongest tracks are at the beginning of the album and it loses its consistency by Little One Runs onwards. I still really enjoy the second half, but after the powerful first tracks I feel that they could (should?) be on a different release, most likely somewhere after Horses In The Sky and before KollapsTradixionales.
The first two tracks are some of the strongest tracks that the band has ever put out. Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island Of Montreal) is borderline metal in parts, with its utterly disgustingly fuzzy riff that the track subtly builds into. The track begins with drums and the instruments all come in fuzzed up to make a wonderfully dirty wall of shoegaze sounds. The vocals come in as some of the strongest Efrim has ever delivered. I’ve always enjoyed the lack of confidence underlying on his vocal tracks and I was initially disappointed by this change in delivery, but the track is all the better for the strong performance. The change into the heaviest riff TSMZ have ever given us was initially shocking, but very powerful and really paves the way for the rest of the track which is played out to a technique that TSMZ excel in; group vocals. The vocal hook follows the music’s melody and creates a massive sound. An “order out of chaos” moment, if you will.
Austerity Blues is the longest track on the album and the live tracked acoustic chords that subtly move out of time give it an essence of being played around a campfire during the night in a protest camp. Fuzz begins to envelop the track and it builds and builds very slowly and musically becomes rather triumphant and as the vocals, “Lord let my son live long enough to see the mountain torn down”, are brought in a shiver runs down my spine. It’s a very strong moment and from there the track is dismantled down into disjointed instruments playing alongside each other rather than with each other. A little bit like an orchestra as they tune up before a performance, but this is after the performance and plays on the uncertainty and hope displayed in the lyrics.
Take Away These Early Grave Blues is urgent and anxious. The violins shred their way through the tracks and the vocals are blisteringly fast, almost struggling to keep up the pace. It is an exhausting track with a final, demanding, message. Love each other. Next to this track Little Ones Run is a short lullaby of piano and crooned group vocals. It is a changing point in the album, perfect to introduce What We loved Was Not Enough.
Still incorporating the fuzzed up instruments that have been prominent in the first half of the album, What We Loved Was Not Enough still feels like a slightly younger TSMZ. It loses out to the tracks before it mainly as it hasn’t got a stand out hook that pulls you in. This does not mean that it is a bad track; standing alone it would shine especially with the strong vocal performance with lead and backing.
The album finishes with Rains Thru The Roof At The Grand Ballroom. It is short, sweet, and angelic; but ends the album on a low point. The vocals, “Hold on”, are the unhopeful promise of change, and the album goes out without a bang.
Overall Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything is a welcome entry in TSMZ’s catalogue. It is not their strongest overall release, but includes some of their strongest material. I definitely recommend that you give it some of your time.