Mogwai have established themselves as archetypes of self-fabricated controversy and the Post-rock tag. From Royalty to Blur, and most recently FHM, Stuart Braithwaite and company have developed a knack for inserting the boot in a way that seems to exude justice, even when I disagree with them most of the time. This is the fifth “proper” album from the Glasgow five, on the heels of 2003’s shivering success, Happy Songs For Happy People. Braithwaite explains on an accompanying press release that the band recorded the album with a conscious desire to avoid over reliance on the quiet-loud structure of previous work and to create some songs which they could really enjoy playing live. This has resulted in a collection of ten strikingly diverse compositions. The above formula makes a showing on a few occasions, but it’s punctuated by short blasting rock-outs, near torch-ballads, and instances of definite brevity.
Mr Beast begins with the piano driven “Auto Rock.” Tasteful electronic flourishes are stretched as percussion reverberates louder and louder. By contrast, “Glasgow Mega Snake” is practically a four minute-crescendo. I suspect it eats reviewers. After we’ve been woken up, Mogwai serve us a strong contender for best song released this month. “Acid Food” combines the lull of Galaxie 500 with a minimalist, plastic-shoed (dare I say proto-hip-hop?) beat. Add some lovely Rock Action evocation in the whispered vocals about storm recovery and I’m reaching for the fast back button.
“Travel is Dangerous” adds a touch of shoegaze and vocalized bitterness to the band’s familiar blueprint. “Team Handed” makes like the fumes from a pile of Labradford and Procol Harum CDs. While far from destroying the amps, it might generate a few tears on its own account. “Friend of the Night,” a stereotypically mesmeric piano ballad, almost in the Coldplay mode, is followed by a truly jaw-dropping moment. “Emergency Trap” is one of the finest instrumental songs I’ve ever heard. Echoing a desolate wasteland cluttered with Lift To Experience records and Irvine Welsh novels, this deserves a good film to shine against. “Folk Death 95” stabs acidic and psychedelic; it’s an uplifting menace. “I Chose Horses” could almost be classified as Space-Rock, while Envy’s Tetsu Fukagawa’s spoken vocals emphasize a lulling effect. “We’re No Here” has a mean streak to rival “Like Herod.” It’s truly unforgiving, like a washing machine being pummeled by metallic numbers. The guitars are at crisis point.
Mogwai have always been fans of slogans, and some ruthless ones at that. The irony of course is that most of the five or so ardent Mogwai fans I know are also fairly enamored with Albarn and offshoots. But here, the Scottish five-piece cut to the chase without any of the sloganeering. As I’ve written above, Mr Beast is a disparate creature, as distinct within their body of work as Rock Action or Come On Die Young. Here they’re shooting from all angles, yet critically they continue to do what makes them special. As always, Mogwai create music that’s by turns ear beating and ear opening, symphonic and Stone Age, and undercut with an unquestionable soulfulness. Satan fear Mogwai.
65 Days of Static- The Fall of Math
Mono- One Step More and You Die
Labradford- Fixed Context