Originally published in Beatroute Magazine, Vancouver
VANCOUVER — The Music of Decline is a rambling wander through psychedelic pastures. Strung out guitar riffs melt into synth interludes that in turn, become raw, unadulterated blues. The sophomore album from Vancouver five-piece The Godspot comes after a three-year hiatus following their first album, The Dust on a Moth’s Wing in 2012.
Describing their own sound as everything from “drunken shoe gaze for cowboys” to “discordian basement rock,” The Godspot are either purposefully messing with us, or are just on a variation of illegal substances, or maybe both. “I just throw as much stuff out there as I can to confuse the audience as much as possible,” says lead vocalist and guitarist Ryan Johnston. “For a while I told everybody we were a steam punk band.”
Johnston is softly spoken with long disheveled hair. He seems more shy than overly absurd. But it’s impossible not to be mesmerized by his offbeat imagination, something at odds with his obvious introversion.
“I first heard the term ‘the Godspot’ on a late night radio station,” he says hesitantly. “This guy was basically saying that when you realize that you can die, to compensate, part of the brain called the Godspot responds with spirituality, giving you something to believe in.”
Such philosophical revelations are only to be expected from a band heavily entrenched in the acid rock sounds of the ‘60s and raised on the angry grunge era of the ‘90s. Johnston sites The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Velvet Underground and Jefferson Airplane as some of their major influences.
The album has an eclectic sound, punctuated with atmospheric, instrumental interludes and the noticeable presence of female vocalists Evyln Cardona and Elyse Cheetham, who provide a refreshing, folk-like alternative to Johnston’s whisky-and-cigarette croon. As the name suggests, there’s an air of disillusionment to The Music of Decline, well fitting with Johnston’s what-does-it-all-mean attitude. “Soul Scrubbers” tinges nostalgic images with bitterness, “I went to school, I came out indifferent. It must have worked, everyone else here is indifferent too.” While “No Heart for the Mercy Kill” conjures fires, hell, and bayonets, where insects “pluck away you from the vine and take away your humanity.”
The title “The Music of Decline” is a phrase pulled from the Herman Hesse novel Steppenwolf. “In Steppenwolf he [the character] has this wolf inside of him and it’s like a battle with the duality of yourself,” says Johnston. “The whole album is basically about the last five years of my life and dealing with a lot of stuff. And also... the music we play is just in decline, you know?”
This is an honest album. And there seem to be less and less bands concerning themselves with the contradictions of existence these days, so maybe it is all in decline after all. Ryan Johnston at least, has plenty of existential questions to muse over between album releases.
“Is it the music of decline? I don’t even know… What is music anymore? Do I even like music?”