Mr Beast
8

  • Mogwai
  • PIAS
  • 2006-03-06

Mogwai are back, and with some effect. Although their fifth studio album doesn’t prove to be quite the extremely-heavy effort that early suggestions had it seeming to be, Mr Beast is a very accomplished record full of emotion and intensity — and one which at points does indeed return to the noisy territory which although the live show still always offered, the recordings had generally developed away from.

Both Rock Action and Happy Songs For Happy People offered perhaps more mature turns, reworkings and progressions of the Mogwai mission, both challenging, pleasing and very engaging but one factor which wasn’t necessarily lacking — the album’s worked fine as they were — but many Mogwai fans did quite fancy, was the head-crushing territory of classics such as “Like Herod”, “Stereodee” and “Xmas Steps”. Sure, between the last two album came the ultimate Mogwai epic “My Father My King” with its beautiful neo-metal, but after five years since this piece, and three years since Happy Songs, not only were Mogwai fans waiting for new material, but material that would make the ears bleed.

after a few seconds, a solo guitar bites into the silence

Mr Beast’s opener “Auto Rock” is a broody, suggestive track, building up slowly and methodicallly, suggesting that at any moment it might explode into noise. A piano riff repeats, with pulsing electronics sitting behind it and creeping up, growing and swelling and joined by dull, distorted guitars in the background and by a thumping drum heartbeat. After building up to noise after four minutes the track ends, without kicking in to anything. This is just some kind of ploy though – after a few seconds, a solo guitar bites into the silence with the distorted riff of “Glasgow Mega-Snake”, soon joined by a full, loud and heavy band who thrash through the song, which is pretty fast at least by Mogwai standards. Though still showing-off a little of the band’s mastery of the quiet-loud relationship, Glasgow Mega-Snake is primarily loud throughout, blasting into the new album effectively.

The next track, “Acid Food” stands as a counterpoint, occupying more reserved, reflective and quieter ground, and offers that near-always elusive element of vocals, by the band. The track has a surprising ballad quality to it, and shows off an effective country slide-guitar, Hood-style compressed drum machine rhythms and electronically filtered ‘chorus’ vocals. Perhaps feeling more comfortable with recording their own vocals than ever before the band also sing on next track, “Travel Is Dangerous”.

gorgeous interweaving guitar riffs and caluclated build up in both volume and intensity

“Team Handed” and “Emergency Trap” offer perhaps the most classic Mogwai trademark songs, downtempo introspections which could easily be lifted off any of the band’s previous releases, but in the main the album is full of interesting variation and show how the band have travelled further forward in the years since their last album release.

“Friend of the Night” is an emotive and powerful piano-led piece, with an extremely uplifting quality, drawing the listener in similarly to the effect of “Folk Death 95”, with its gorgeous interweaving guitar riffs and caluclated build up in both volume and intensity to a climactic storm. Throughout the whole album the drums seem more powerful than on most Mogwai records, with a more aggressive edge similar to John Stainer or Jim Kimball.

“I Choose Horses” serenity is merely a calm before the storm as the album fittingly ends with the beastly epic “We’re No Here”.

Guest vocals appear on the penultimate track “I Chose Horses” by Tetsuya Fujikawa of Japanese hardcore legends Envy, as well as guest keyboards from composer Craig Armstrong. The song is serene and peaceful and showcases the band’s more mournful or brooding sound, with Fujikawa performing spoken word, and not his usual powerful, throaty screaming. “I Choose Horses” serenity is merely a calm before the storm as the album fittingly ends with the beastly epic “We’re No Here”. This final track is not too disimilar in feel to parts of “My Father My King”, due to being built around an ethnic-scale riff, and its steady-paced heaviness recalls the doom terrains of Isis.

Comparisons can be drawn from the tracks on this album to those as diverse as Hood, Pelican or Jim O’Rourke but although seemingly an obvious statement, the most constant reference point for the songs on this album is just Mogwai themselves. Past sounds are referenced but through doing something different — it’s a classic Mogwai album. It wasn’t just the fans but the band as well who wanted this album to embrace the loudness and ferocity of the band’s live performances, and it did this and much more, offering variety and range in style and mood and almost all in well-structured and concise songs — each offering something different, none dwelling too long on it, and all quintessentially Mogwai.

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