April 6, 2005

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Mogwai, Mr. Beast
Matador, 2006

Mogwai’s fifth and latest album, Mr. Beast, like so many excellent rock albums, proves a record riddled with contradictions. It is ear-splittingly loud and rancorous at times, yet calm, serene and passive at others. It is seething, volatile and frightening, but also mute, sedated and scared. The record invokes punky chaos and lush orchestral instrumentals all at the same time.

Like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine before them, Glasgow, Scotland five-piece, Mogwai have forged a career out of embracing the same style of ambient noise rock, and like their previous albums, Mr. Beast will surely leave audiences divided. I can tell you now, though, those looking for instant gratification will be sorely disappointed.

Having said that the band wastes little time in hooking listeners with the one-two punch of “Auto Rock,” and “Glasgow Mega-Snake,” (not just any snake mind you, but a “mega” snake), two tracks which feature Mogwai’s patented droning, fuzzed out guitars which instantly recall Kevin Shields’ best work. “Glasgow Mega-Snake,” is a Mogwai first, however, in that the song is not only incredibly loud, but it actually rocks too, with some ripping power-chords and a heavy attack one might even mistake for Queens of the Stone Age.

Things slow down for “Acid Food,” “Friend of the Night,” and “Team Handed,” which float by on lush, atmospheric pianos and synthesizers, the perfect soundtracks to a dreary, film noir. As usual most of Mr. Beast’s songs are devoid of lyrics, though singer/guitarist Stuart Braithwaite does lend his voice to two songs. Still, don’t expect any kind of meaning or coherence from his off-the-cuff ramblings, not that it really matters anyway. In fact, that’s what makes Mogwai so great. What may seem like random, excessive noise and directionless post-punk experiments to some all makes perfect sense to those whose ears are acutely tuned to this band’s beautifully transcendent signal. A
— Adam Marletta


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