on 27 September 2008
When Mogwai released 'Young Team' back in 1997, they were a breath of fresh air. They combined the rawness of Pavement circa 'Slanted & Enchanted' with the atmosphere so fondly remembered on Slint's milestone album 'Spiderland'.
11 years on from that landmark release and Mogwai have gone through many up's and downs. 'Come On Die Young' blew us all away with its blinding dynamics and sinister air, but conversley, 'Rock Action' left me with an empty feeling and made me wonder wheather this once great band had gone as far as it could. Since 'Rock Action', Mogwai have released a steady stream of good if not remarkable albums (although I beleive 'Happy Songs For Happy People' to be somewhat of a lost classic).
'The Hawk Is Howling' keeps this trend up, its neither Mogwai at its absoloute finest nor is it anything less than good. At times I feel they find some remnants of their original greatness, namely 'I Love You, I'm Going To Blow Up Your School's superb first 5 minutes of dark, brooding atmosphere, followed by the sort of explosive and breath-taking ending that you expect from that title. It really is a great moment, and sometimes I feel they are the only band around capable of such superb dynamics. 'Batcat' is another highlight, four and a half minutes of brutal noise, which will surely scare away any casual fans (if there is such a thing as a casual Mogwai fan!!!). The album as a whole resembles 'CODY', as we have an opening half dozen short (in Mogwai's case)songs, followed by a final four long, epic, blistering tracks that really finds the band in full stride and sounding the best they've sounded this century.
Mogwai's only problem for me is that they sound excatly as you would expect, which is both a curse and a blessing. Maybe the time is right for them to take a break and search for a new direction. However I will concede that it is wonderful to hear a band making music just for the love of it, and hearing 5 musicians just going into a studio and producing great music seems a rarity nowadays, so we should all applaud them for that.
On the point of the DVD. 'Adelia, I Want To Love' (fantastic title), is a short film by Vincent Moon. Now I may get shot for this, but I personally find Moon's films to be exceedingly pretentious which offer little in substance, and this one is no different. The video to 'Batcat' also features, which is rudimentery if not spectacular. I did quite enjoy the 'Batcat' animation though. So all-in-all another good Mogwai release.