Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Mogwai - The Hawk is Howling (Wall of Sound 2008)

Sonic revellers Mogwai once destroyed my ears with 'Young Team'. I was a young pup teenager and wasn't prepared for their macabre brand of destructive majestic music. 'Mogwai Fear Satan' made me dance the black death of teenage rock suicide till my toes bled with iron bru. These Scottish nutcases have been the UK's finest purveyors of discordant maudlin soundscapes ever since, displaying a fine line in the evil, the political and the anti-rock cliche. This is their first effort since 2006 and while it is in the same vein as their previous work, they are constantly refining their sound and getting more and more anthemic with each release. From the delicately sad piano of 'I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead' to the searing emo of Batcat, this is powerful visceral stuff. There are more synths here now, filling the frequencies that they have usually labelled 'feedback'. There is more dischord and discontent here than previous efforts. Where 'Scotland's Shame' painfully evokes vivid pictures of a country in limbo, 'King's Meadow' is a damn fine Mogwai attempt at pastoral. They sound bigger than before, playing us out with a powerful anthemic 'Precipice', constantly teetering on the edge of full eruption. The album's instigator describes it as "dreamy ballads about forbidden love gone awry, one minute pointless instrumentals and [...] spoken word about the future of the music industry in India" which is pretty ambitious stuff for a largely instrumental album with no one voice, just loads of repeated guitar fragments and emotions embroiled in the darkest depths of its soundscapes. Where Mogwai have always failed is to create an album that is repeatedly listenable. 'Young Team' quickly fell out of my listening rotation as did 'Come on die young'. 'Rock Action' never made it past a few listens, but here, now, 'The Hawk Is Rising' looks like it'll be taking pride of place on the shelf, dug out for sinister dinner parties and post big-night reflections. Three and a half stars.

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