Album Review: Maybeshewill – No Feeling is Final

[Robot Needs Home; 2021]

When all is said and done, we are doomed. The stench of apathy, what-about-isms, and corporate corruption sweeps over the planet at pace, and we’re to blame. We let this happen. We let the clowns take over, and we let the vacuity of ‘celebrity’ seem important whilst forgetting that decency, morality, and public service are noble pursuits. To help another in whichever way we can is the highest calling of humanity. Yet we let the neo-liberalist agenda of greed, of want, and ‘need’ soak through our very existence. We measured success in what we had, not who we were. Damn you all. Damn you all to hell.

Post-rock giants Maybeshewill return from their hiatus with No Feeling is Final, an album of sonic splendour and luscious textures that’s named after the closing line of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem “Go to the Limits of Your Longing”. Few phrases evoke such raw emotion as ‘no feeling is final’, a visceral notion of quiet optimism in the face of the darkest days that life has to offer. The penultimate line in Rilke’s work – “Just keep going” – is all that we can do sometimes, yet there is a redundancy to that call in the face of the climate crisis that No Feeling is Final centres on. If we just keep going we are culpable for our own demise, aligned to the perpetual shoulder-shrug of the promulgated ‘wisdom’ of those who hold the keys to hegemony. Open your eyes and you’ll see that we are mere pawns of the billionaire oligarchy that salutes its own endeavours whilst we gape in awe as they climb to the stars in their phallus-shaped machines. We can’t just keep going. We mustn’t.

Over the album’s 10 tracks, Maybeshewill remind us of why we fell in love with post-rock in the first place. The sweeping arrangements, glacial guitars and electronic accompaniment offer a sense of hope, of triumphalism in the face of utter despair. This is music for those aware of their role; for those who know how insignificant we all are in the scheme of things, yet so devastatingly important to those closest to us.

There is a sombre tone to the record as a whole, as befits an album focused on the existential crisis that confronts us. Yet, whether it’s in an ascending chord progression or their superlative arrangements that transcend the norm, the band have an uncanny knack in creating beauty out of despondency.

Album opener “We’ve Arrived at the Burning Building” sets a pensive mood, at once hesitant and majestic. It’s the perfect distillation of the band’s signature sound, with spiralling keyboard lines over orchestral strings and arpeggio synth lines combining. Maybeshewill masterfully circumnavigate the obvious, never falling into the trap of allowing a song to go where the listener expects it to go. There are no musical tangents here, just focused song writing on tracks that feel very lean.

“Zarah” features a hard-hitting and on point speech by Labour MP Zarah Sultana on the climate crisis, laying bare the truths about the role of the 100 companies responsible for 70% of the world’s pollution, of the drive for profit over people. On a finite planet, the capitalist doctrine of ‘growth’ is the reason we are in this situation. We need personal development, not economic growth. You can recycle all you want, my friend, and you can rage at those who don’t, but this is not the answer to reducing carbon emissions to get the planet back on track. Personal responsibility can only do so much, but it’s also the system that needs to be amended/negated/burnt to the ground [delete as appropriate]. We can doff our caps to the wealthy, or we can demand they step up and right their wrongs. Billionaires are, almost by definition, psychopaths so, you know, good luck with that.

Yet, if no feeling is final then there needs to be a sense of optimism that things can and that things will change. And this is where Maybeshewill hit the nail perfectly on the head with their music. This is not the gloomy despair of a masterpiece such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s dystopian “The Dead Flag Blues”, or the rage of Mogwai’s fiery “Like Herod”, but a tightly-wound record that offers glimmers of hope in spite of everything. “Complicity” is simply gorgeous in its orchestration, like a bright dawn after the most frightening of storms, while “Green Unpleasant Land” is almost neo-classical (with a touch of folk) in its expansive reach.

The album ends on the piano-led “Tomorrow”, a beautiful piece of music that stands apart from the rest of the album in its linearity. Post-rock often exists within a liminal space – a music of between points rather than absolutes – yet Maybeshewill eschew the need to conform to generic conventions by bringing proceedings to a close with a simple refrain, almost lullaby-like in its timbre to send us to our slumbers with a sense of hope that maybe, just maybe, not all hope is lost.

If we are to save our only home, it’s not about being perfect; it’s about being better. It’s about believing in one another, not waiting for others to act before we do. It can be done, and that will be the ultimate shame if it isn’t.