As those of you who are fellow Sufjanatics will be able to tell from the name of our magazine, at Friend Rock we’re huge fans of Sir Stevens. It’s been a while since he released an album of new material (save of course the impressive re-workings of his Enjoy Your Rabbit and the odd one off track such as the bizarre rock-out that was In The Words of The Governor) and so we were mighty excited about hearing this album. It’s been a long time coming. Two years in fact, since The BQE was first aired in Brooklyn.
Occasionally, pop stars who venture into the realms of classical composition aren’t quite cut out for it and the resulting material falls flat. Not so for Sufjan Stevens. A staggeringly talented musician and artist, The BQE is a classical concept album like pretty much nothing we’ve heard before. For the uneducated among you, the BQE is named after the famous motorway (or, erm, highway) in New York, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. This record is a celebration of man-made engineering, a testament to New York’s spirit and a soothing antidote to the gridlock that plagues such routes.
My reaction to The BQE is one of blissful transportation beyond the roadway. I could visualise myself on a journey; one moment sat behind the wheel of a vehicle at 8.30am, the next floating above the asphalt on a cloud of brass and strings, looking down upon the workers and commuters below. This is what The BQE is all about, for me anyway. Taking the mundane and lifting it to a higher level so a greater interpretation of its’ hidden beauty can be discovered.
I suppose coming from a city like Manchester, which like New York is one famed for post industrial ‘beauty’ (yes, I find the post industrial decay and architectural juxtaposition of such places fascinating) helps somewhat in appreciating such things. The Mancunian Way is much the same; taking a ride alongside the old towers of the 1970’s and the new developments of the 21st century is an inspiring, emotional and rewarding experience.
The BQE album is such an experience. Classical strings and brass sections criss cross and wind alongside modern electronic bleepcore soundscapes that mould the listening experience into an observation into exactly what it is like to live in a post industrial city in the 21st century.