Godspeed You! Black Emperor Win Polaris Prize, Slam Awards Shows

Group donates award money to music programs in Quebec prisons

Polaris 2013, Godspeed You Black Emperor, prize, Montreal, $30,000,
From the cover of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!'
Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

Now that's how you accept an award. Godspeed You! Black Emperor won the 2013 Polaris Music Prize for last year's Essential Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend. But unsurprisingly, Montreal's contrarian post-rock overlords didn't show up at the September 23 ceremony. And they have some choice words for awards shows in general. The album beat out a short list that included Tegan and Sara's Heartthrob, Purity Ring's Shrines, METZ's METZ, Metric's Synthetica, and Colin Stetson's New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light.

GYBE will donate their $30,000 CAD ($29,130 U.S.) prize toward charity. Specifically, says Don Wilkie of label Constellation Records in a statement, "Godspeed will use the prize money to purchase musical instruments for, and support organizations providing music lessons to, people incarcerated within the Quebec prison system." The winner is picked by a Grand Jury of 11 who are part of a larger panel featuring more than 200 Canadian journalists, broadcasters, and programmers.

When Feist won last year's Polarize prize on the strength of 2011's Metals, she hid under a table. But Godspeed have gone a step or two further, not only giving away their cash but also lambasting the value system behind it. After expressing gratitude and thanks, the band wrote in a statement that "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 need is an awards show' is not a thought that's ever crossed our minds." Which... right?

In particular, the statement assails "holding a gala during a time of austerity," "organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized" check, and "asking the Toyota Motor Company to help cover the tab" at a time of polar ice melt. Allelujah, they are unbending even as they are ascendant!

By way of contrast My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields recently raged at the U.K. Mercury Prize as "sinister" while also complaining at not being nominated for the award.

For what it's worth, the head of the Polaris Grand Jury hailed the rigorousness of the award deliberations. "The serious contemplation given to each and every album on the short list by the Grand Jury is truly impressive," Grand Jury overseer James Keast said 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."

Read GYBE's statement below.

A FEW WORDS REGARDING THIS POLARIS PRIZE THING

hello kanada.
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,
xoxoxox
godspeed you! black emperor

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