I'll admit it, I struggle with early Mogwai. Their debut, Young Team came out in 1997 and I've always found it a little... imposing. Opening track Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home nicely squeezes the essence of early Mogwai into a concise six minutes, lumbering bass heavy tempos, doody melodies and occasional guitar crunch.
But the album is probably best known for its second track, the 11 minute Like Herod, which mopes along for two minutes before becoming very quiet indeed. This is the time to get scared, the quieter the track gets, because you know that sooner or later there's going to be a wallop of guitars which, even though I know it's coming, still manages to frighten the bejasus out of me.
After this, the rest of the album seems a little low-key. Katrien does the moody Mogwai thing perfectly, and after brief piano piece Radar Maker, they even find time for a bit of beauty, on the glockenspiel-led Tracy. The guitars are turned down a notch or two so as not to disturb an exquisite melody, though they come roaring back in on following track Summer.
Another piano piece With Portfolio collapses into noise before its conclusion before Aidan Moffat takes lead vocals on the shimmeringly melodic R U Still In 2 It. His understated delivery works really well before being joined by the rest of the band. A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters is a kind of awkward piano shuffle before the epic final track Mogwai Fear Satan. A sixteen minute running time gives the wall of guitars ample time to ebb and flow, startling and soothing in equal measure, even fitting in a flute halfway through.
You can almost hear the band setting down a template for modern instrumental rock. In my opinion, they have more enjoyable albums, but this one truly shows off Mogwai's range of dynamics.