The first track here, Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island Of Montreal), opens with a child’s voice. “We live on the island called Montreal, and we make a lot of noise,” he states, “because we love each other!” The first two statements are clearly true true: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra calls the Quebec capitol home, and “noisy” is typically the first adjective used to describe its sound. I’ll assume the latter is true too, not because the words are spoken by the son of guitarist/pianist/vocalist Efrim Menuck and vocalist/violinist Jessica Moss, but because Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything seems to genuinely care. But this isn’t a record full of frolicking in some sun-splatter tulip fields beyond vision—notice that this release is under the name Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra with the cheer-inducing Tra-La-La Band suffix conspicuously missing this time.
Serious attention is commanded from the beginning as the album immediately blusters into the thick of it with Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island Of Montreal), a ten-minute post-rock orchestral spiritual that fits nicely into Thee Silver Mt. Zion’s the-war-is-coming oeuvre. Its subtitle “For The Island Of Montreal,” is so full of pride that reducing it to a parenthetical seems almost unfair, as the band members have and continue to be long-time supporters of the vibrant local arts community up there. Menuck stated in an interview, “I’m not Québécois, but I am absolutely a Montrealer. Absolutely. That’s why I still live here. That’s why I moved here. There’s something about this city that I still love.”
The album is full of cautions come too late: “There’ll be war in our cities/and riots at the mall/all our children gonna die,” Menuck sings on What We Loved Was Not Enough, the album’s third-wind herculean track, offsetting it’s soothing string section effect. And then, again, the numbness comes with, “The day has come when we no longer feel.” The centerpiece, albeit only the second track of six, Austerity Blues, repeatedly entreats, “Lord let my son live long enough to see that mountain torn down,” as keys and strings wail in an incrementally strained and chilling harmony. At nine minutes in it breaks, only to start again at a level just above a whisper, driving home the imperative.
Politics haven’t been abandoned on Thee Silver Mt. Zion’s seventh album. A Fred “Sonic” Smith (MC5 guitarist) quote, translated into French, is played over the opening to Rains Thru The Roof At The Grande Ballroom (For Capital Steez): “Music is a way of life, it’s more than just something you do on the weekend. It’s something you devote your life to.” (It’s worth noting that lifetime musicians and anti-capitalists Goodspeed You! Black Emperor, of which Menuck is also a member, gave the Canadian music industry it own “fuck off” by refusing last year’s Polaris Prize and it’s accompanying $30,000 winnings, proving that Smith’s words aren’t just paying punk lip service.) The sparse track, also the album’s shortest, is a lament for a lost noise-making youth, Capital Steez, a Pro Era-founder and rapper who, sadly, jumped to his death from a New York City high-rise just over a year ago; he was 19 years old.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra’s proto-punk only gets better with age and maturity, but Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything believes that today’s youth are everything for tomorrow. They are the loving future of Montreal, and Thee Silver Mt. Zion willing, they will make a lot of noise.