Monday, February 27, 2006

Friends of the night

OK, so various tracks from Mogwai’s Mr Beast have been around the internet for quite some time now, but it was very nice last week to get my hands on an actual physical copy of the Glasgow quintet’s new CD, and hear it in all it’s fuzzy, noisy glory, the way Stuart Braithwaite and the boys intended it to be.

Not that 2003’s Happy Songs for Happy People was a drop in form, but this is LP is a much-heralded return to what Mogwai are really good at – holding the supreme tension between the brutal and the beautiful. There are at least a couple of snarly rock monsters on here (Glasgow Mega-Snake and We’re No Here) but there are also moments of aching gorgeousness (Emergency Trap, Team Handed, the majestic Friend of the Night), with a beautiful piano melody against the backdrop of menacing guitar riffs. The titles are good too – Folk Death 95, We’re No Here, the aforementioned mega-snake – showing off the band’s sharp wit which could possibly be lost amidst the crashing guitars.

One thing that puzzles me though is Braithwaite’s insistence on singing on some of the tracks. He’s really no vocalist, and it adds nothing to the music which is good enough without any mic-related interference. That said, on Acid Food, his singing is gloriously upstaged by a lovely steel guitar coming in towards end. Mogwai going country – whatever next?

That apart, Mr Beast doesn’t really break new ground the band haven’t occupied before. But why should it really? When the formula is this good, why mess with it? Pointless experimentation can be a band thing and is somewhere that some of their contemporaries have come unstuck recently (like their fellow Glaswegians Belle and Sebastian). In a musical climate where no-one really still talks about post rock, Mogwai are still totally relevant.

Here are a couple of tracks that haven’t been quite as prominent on the blogs:

Download: Emergency Trap
Download: I Chose Horses

PS. I haven’t given this a favourable review just so I can escape the acid tongue of Barry Burns, as he’s been giving other publications a sarcastic broadside lately for negative reviews. He’ll probably never see this anyway…

Pre-order Mr Beast

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