Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Album Review: Mogwai – Mr. Beast

Writing about Mogwai rarely does justice to the music contained within. Or maybe it’s my chronic inability to write about (mostly) instrumental music. Either way 2006 saw the first Mogwai album for 3 years, which starts gingerly with Auto-Rock, entering on a piano sequence which builds, adding drums into a crescendo. It would be the perfect ‘walk-on stage’ music for the band. The album then bursts forward with the explosive Glasgow Mega-Snake, which is pretty much like Mogwai gone heavy metal.

Acid Food features electronic beats and steel guitar, and Stuart Braithwaite’s vocoderized vocals. These elements should clash horribly but coalesce to produce a decent track, reminiscent of some of the tracks on Rock Action.

What’s noticeable about this album is that the tracks are shorter, and more concise, none of running longer than 5 and a half minutes, and most of them less than 4. This is not necessarily what you want from Mogwai, as one of their main strengths is their command of pacing and dynamics, in allowing a piece of music to carefully unfurl and evolve into something.

Case in point is the track Travel Is Dangerous, which has the raw materials required to be an absolute epic, containing the classic Mogwai build up to heavy guitars, though it all happens rather quickly and the track ends in just 4 minutes.

After the piano-led Team Handed, also 4 minutes but conversely, doesn’t really need to be, we get Emergency Trap which pleasingly is 5 and a half minutes, with a nice build up and some stately piano parts with the help of some distorted guitars and heavy drums (hooray!). It’s the track Travel Is Dangerous should have been.

Emergency Trap has a blessed-out atmosphere and drifts along serenely, but this is shattered by Folk Death 95 which pounds along most pleasingly in a classic Mogwai vein with some very metallish guitars. This track also benefits form a proper build up as we are led into metal mayhem gradually, rather than dumped straight into it. I’d still like a longer version of this one though, as the heaviness ebbs away almost as soon as it starts. No Mogwai track should be only 3 and a half minutes long!

I Chose Horses features Tetsuya Fukagawa from a Japanese hardcore band Envy reciting Japanese over a keyboard arrangement by composer Craig Armstrong but the overall effect leaves me a little nonplussed. However final track We’re No Here is a nice heavy blast to end the album.

It’s a very solid album, for sure, but I wouldn’t have complained if many of the songs were a lot longer. However the shorter nature of the songs might act as a handy starting point for those looking to discover this band. And, let’s face it, who needs Sigur Ros, with these guys around?