Someone clearly a whole lot smarter than me once wrote that music, at its best, is "...a polite reminder of the limitations of language". A beautiful phrase, which stuck with me.
At their magnificent best, Mogwai have brought that polite (a less than apt word in the context of Mogwai's music, I grant you) reminder to mind many times since "Young Team" offered an exciting alternative to the dying embers of Britpop 11 years ago. That and every subsequent release have been studded with moments that have enough power and beauty to leave listeners awestruck.
What makes "The Hawk is Howling" Mogwai's most satisfying recording to-date is that over its 63 minutes or so, the feeling of awe it generates refuses to leave you. There are simply no tracks here destined for the skip button on future listens. The opening track, "I'm Jim Morrisson, I'm Dead", devastates with it's sheer momentum and from there on, through a number of fluctuating moods, the album takes you on a journey you'll want to repeat many, many times.
By the time the truly majestic wash of "Scotland's Shame", the eighth track here, was enveloping me, all thoughts of resistance were futile and Mogwai seemed like the only band who ever mattered. They aren't of course, in as much as nobody is, but it can certainly feel that way at times.
Others, i.e. Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed... have offered great work in the time since Slint's "Spiderland". However, Mogwai have always displayed a real understanding of how to get to the point economically and how to use melody to generate real emotion. These ten pieces synthesise all they have learned and that alone should be recommendation enough. I know I'll be revisiting this beautiful album for the rest of my life.