Godflesh – Selfless

Justin Broadrick’s labeling of ‘Selfless’ and Godflesh’s ‘rock and roll’ album is a pretty good example of his weirdly backward views on music.  I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the man’s music; half the time I think he’s really a genius who has crafted some of the most enduring music of the past two decades, while other times I think he’s an inane little pop-loving sycophant who has stumbled into any and all of the good music he’s made, perhaps due to the other musicians he’s worked with throughout his career.  We have rather differing views on music, probably because Broadrick has never really announced or presented himself as a ‘metalhead’.  Broadrick views metal from a pop musician’s perspective, where ‘extremity’ is generally based on how ugly and abrasive the sounds of a particular song or artist are, whereas I see it as more of an abstract thing that can be achieved in less obvious ways.  So that’s probably the reason why he describes this as a rock album; it may be the least abrasive and smoothest of all of Godflesh’s works.  However, Broadrick doesn’t appear to understand that no popular rock music features such foggy, abstract riffing or strange drum programming, but again, he’s viewing music in a pretty linear way.

Now it could be said that the general pussing out of Godflesh occurred eight seconds after the release of ‘Streetcleaner’, which was apparently cathartic enough for Broadrick that he didn’t feel the need to make anything nearly as brilliant again, but I’d suggest that this album, ‘Selfless’, is where you can really draw a direct line from here to Godflesh’s sequel project, Jesu.  The sound is kinder and gentler to the point where nearly all the ‘Streecleaner’-type insane brutality has been stripped away, resulting in an almost shoegazy listen at times.  It’s not what Jesu became (a heavy pop band); it’s more complicated.  The riffs are melodic in a sort of diminished way, but nowhere near what would be heard on even the earliest Jesu recordings, and the drum programming, while not punishing like on Godflesh’s earlier works, is still similarly scattered and rhythmically atypical.  Broadrick’s abrasive shouts are still present, of course, but they take a backseat to his angelic clean vocals which I liked a great deal more in Fear Factory.

The thing that handicaps this album is a lack of focus.  None of the songs have any real center, though they try to shape one up out of nearly endless repetition of droning riffs and popping drum beats, which is a weirdly clumsy and awkward way to go about things for a Broadrick project.  The whole thing is real high on concept but low on execution, like the members had a bunch of great ideas but little or no way of how to implement them.  It’s as if you went into a restaurant and ordered some great sounding dish, just for them to say “We didn’t know how to actually make this into a meal, so here’s all the ingredients summarily dumped onto your plate.  After all, it’s the same thing in the end, isn’t it?”  It has its moments, admittedly.  There are good songs: ‘Crush My Soul’, ‘Empyreal’, ‘Toll’, all pretty cool.  They don’t feel like anything more significant than a few decent songs though.  There’s an unusual and unique atmosphere at work that I can’t really describe that’s kind of cool, and that’s probably the best part of this album, in case you ever feel like hearing this atmosphere in particular.

It’s not a bad album, but it’s sort of aimless and purposeless, and I never really listen to it of my own volition.  It’s not enjoyable music.  It feels like an art installation.

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~ by noktorn on March 14, 2008.

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