In a way this album exemplifies the musician's perennial problems of trying to square the circle by coming up with something different whilst staying the same. From the opening notes this is clearly identifiable as being Mogwai and as it progresses can be heard to equal the quality of its predecessors. The individuality of their musical identity creates unenviable inbuilt difficulties: if a piece resembles an earlier recording, the band is laid open to charges of stagnation, of simply having further stabs at basically recording the same album in a new guise; if it differs too much, they risk being accused of losing their identity, or even of selling out and becoming too commercial.
Perhaps tellingly, the two songs that featured in the top ten of the 2003 John Peel Festive Fifty, the only two to be placed, were Hunted By A Freak and the eight-minute epic Ratts Of The Capital, as these side-openers contain the most recognisably Mogwai trademark qualities: the sinister, slow building of the soundscape, the quiet/loud/quiet passages, the tortured guitar. However, elsewhere on the record there are several subtle indications that Mogwai have plenty left to say, musically speaking, and there is more of a democratic band feel than in some of their earlier guitar-led pieces. Four of the tracks are augmented by cello or violin, and a string quartet is employed to atmospheric effect on Killing All The Flies.
As always, the titles remain enigmatic and willfully ungrammatical (Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep; Moses? I Amn't), and in a mark of the new maturity and restraint shown throughout this extremely listenable record, most of the pieces are only three or four minutes long. This is not a record that gives away all its secrets on the first listen, but rewards repeated plays. This is in no small part due to the skilful engineering led by Tony Doogan at the CaVa studios in Glasgow, but also to the collaborative efforts and musical empathy of the band themselves.