Mr Beast Import
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Mr Beast’ is the band’s fifth album and the follow-up to 2003’s ‘Happy Songs For Happy People’. It was recorded in the band’s new Castle Of Doom studio in Glasgow between April and October 2005 with producer Tony Doogan. As the title suggests, this is a record of considerable size and weight - a monster creation that started out as a return to the heady, bone-crushing volume and intensity of earlier recordings, and then mutated into a many headed, many mooded beast.
It opens with ‘Auto Rock’ - whose sweetly melancholic, central piano motif is gradually engulfed by a swell of fulsome guitars and pummelling drum beats - and closes with lurching, psych-rock behemoth ‘We’re No Here’. In between are eight future Mogwai classics, including the heads-down ‘Glasgow Mega-Snake’, where what must surely be a dozen guitars swarm around a molten metal core like crazed killer bees, the drum machine-driven country gospel of ‘Acid Food’, which features pedal-steel guitar, the wintry splendour of ‘Friend Of The Night’ and the impossibly poignant ‘I Chose Horses’, featuring guest vocalist Tetsuya Fukagawa (of Japanese hardcore band Envy) and a keyboard contribution from composer/arranger Craig Armstrong. Whether light and lean or dark and monstrous, however, these songs underline Mogwai’s belief that to have meaning, rock needs both mass and monumentality. If ‘Mr Beast’ has one thing, it’s presence.
The fifth album from Mogwai should satisfy those fans whove feared their heroes might be losing their sharp-taloned gremlin edge. Mr Beast, you see, is a significant jerk of the volume knob--a record that finds these Scots avant-rockers sporadically reaching again for the same skull-crushing levels of sound that lent earlier albums like 1997s Young Team such noise-freak notoriety.
The lessons in songcraft learnt on more recent works like Happy Songs For Happy People, however, have stuck: for every dials-in-the-red rocker like "Glasgow Mega-Snake" or "Were No Here", theres a more sedate moment like the Barry Burns-sung "Acid Food" or piano-accompanied "Friend Of The Night" to give the album a nice peaks-and-troughs feel. Theres a special guest too, in the shape of Tetsuya Fukagawa of Japans Envy, a hardcore outfit with clear similarities to Mogwais cacophonic sturm und drang. The surprise being, however, that the track in question, "I Chose Horses" is a soft, lilting keyboard number thats possibly this bands plain loveliest moment to date. --Louis Pattison
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Mogwai are as unique as Bjork, Sigur Ros and Joy Division. They create aural soundscapes of immense beauty and horror often combining the two to leave you shellshocked. While people lazily focus on the "blistering feedback - yah de dah" it is usually the delicate touches which seal the band's musical identity.
In the mix there are elements of every form of music ranging from the darkest heaviest roar to melodies which seem to hark from traditional Scottish folk - honest it's all there if you let go and listen.
I recently saw the gow live and they are a formidable machine capable of lifting the roof of venues while making grown men weep.
If you don't get it then go away and come back again because some day it will just click and all fall into place and you'll wondeer what you have been doing for the past ten years.
By the way I only gave it four stars cos it's not the best Mogwai album for me - that would be Happy Songs For Happy People followed by Young Team.
Acid Food features electronic beats and steel guitar, and Stuart Braithwaite's vocoderized vocals. These elements should clash horribly but coalesce to produce a decent track, reminiscent of some of the tracks on Rock Action.
What's noticeable about this album is that the tracks are shorter, and more concise, none of running longer than 5 and a half minutes, and most of them less than 4. This is not necessarily what you want from Mogwai, as one of their main strengths is their command of pacing and dynamics, in allowing a piece of music to carefully unfurl and evolve into something.
Case in point is the track Travel Is Dangerous, which has the raw materials required to be an absolute epic, containing the classic Mogwai build up to heavy guitars, though it all happens rather quickly and the track ends in just 4 minutes.
After the piano-led Team Handed, also 4 minutes but conversely, doesn't really need to be, we get Emergency Trap which pleasingly is 5 and a half minutes, with a nice build up and some stately piano parts with the help of some distorted guitars and heavy drums (hooray!). It's the track Travel Is Dangerous should have been.
Emergency Trap has a blessed-out atmosphere and drifts along serenely, but this is shattered by Folk Death 95 which pounds along most pleasingly in a classic Mogwai vein with some very metallish guitars. This track also benefits form a proper build up as we are led into metal mayhem gradually, rather than dumped straight into it. I'd still like a longer version of this one though, as the heaviness ebbs away almost as soon as it starts. No Mogwai track should be only 3 and a half minutes long!
I Chose Horses features Tetsuya Fukagawa from a Japanese hardcore band Envy reciting Japanese over a keyboard arrangement by composer Craig Armstrong but the overall effect leaves me a little nonplussed. However final track We're No Here is a nice heavy blast to end the album.
It's a very solid album, for sure, but I wouldn't have complained if many of the songs were a lot longer. However the shorter nature of the songs might act as a handy starting point for those looking to discover this band. And, let's face it, who needs Sigur Ros, with these guys around?
There's plenty of fine songs here to add to Mogwai's already impressive catalogue. The uber-riffing Glasgow Mega Snake is as direct as the band's ever been in the rock stakes, and offers a welcome shift in pace from their standard relaxed tempo. Album closer We're No Here is better still, as the guitars slowly layer on top of one another to deliver a dense and searing finale. Opening track Auto Rock builds up steadily in classic Mogwai style, its rudimentary drum beat getting ever louder as the track progresses.
The greater emphasis on vocals is welcome as well, although the vocals remain pleasantly understated, so as not to detract from the music. It's a trick which works beautifully on both Travel Is Dangerous and Acid Food. The spoken words of Tetsuya Fukagawa on the serene I Chose Horses are also an inspired touch.
But during the midway stage, the album seems to lose steam. Both Team Handed and Emergency Trap, whilst perfectly listenable, are instantly forgettable. First single, the piano-led Friend Of The Night is pleasant, but the shimmering guitars which lift it to another level when performed live are curiously low in the mix here. Whilst such songs would have worked fine on earlier albums such as Young Team as a means of bringing together the more substantial, more sprawling songs, here it just doesn't work as the songs are of such similar length.
The truth is that Mogwai are one of the few bands that can justify the extra playing time of a 7, 10 or even 16 minute song (see the glorious Mogwai Fear Satan). By limiting the length of these songs, Mogwai have stymied their creativity somewhat. That's not to say that this isn't another fine album. In fact, Mr. Beast probably stands as the band's most accessible work, and an ideal introduction to one of Britain's most talented bands. But to hear the band in full flow, Young Team remains the one to go for.
Key Tracks: Glasgow Mega Snake, Travel Is Dangerous, We're No Here
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