Government Commissions is an essential Mogwai purchase. The CD comprises all their BBC recordings except for the Peel session version of My Father, My King, which is absent owing to time constraints. It is a really nice touch on the part of the band to leave Sir John Peel's introduction at the start of Hunted By a Freak, and it complements a beautiful rendition of the track itself. Next up is an instrumental version of R U Still in 2 it, which doesn't sound quite right without Aidan on the first listen but really grows on you. Helicon II sounds as fantastic as the single version, whilst Kappa and Cody are light years ahead of the studio versions. Free of Dave Fridmann's over-compressed production and the slightly irritating NFL commentary on the CODY lp, Kappa is the slow building epic it should be whereas Cody is much more delicate with a stronger vocal performance. Secret Pint is probably the weakest track here - it's a decent enough performance but not quite as memorable as the other tunes on show (then again this is a subjective view as Rock Action is my least favourite `gwai lp). The final 3 tracks (Superheroes of BMX, Helicon I & Stop Coming to my House) again continue the trend of rivalling the studio versions, with Helicon I being especially spectacular when Stuart & John stamp on various pedals.
However, everything on this disc is in the shadow of track 6 - the 18:32 overture that is Like Herod. Blimey. Even if you know the Young Team version off by heart, NOTHING prepares you for this. Taking the quiet/loud dynamic to its extremes, this version fades away to near silence before exploding into an absolute meltdown, then goes serene again before another armageddon impression. Play this to the uninitiated and ask them whether the last 10 minutes is; a) a recording of the world collapsing in on itself in a fiery apocalypse, or b) 4 blokes from Glasgow in a BBC studio and they'll be hard pressed to know which is more likely. It has to be heard to be believed.
Wow.. While Mogwai may have been sticking to a similar formular for years, when it works, it's earth-shattering. A collection of live Mogwai songs was inevitable since that is their true power. The un-produced gems on this album prove Mogwai really are the kings of (cringe) post-rock. Like Herod blasts through the speakers for 18 minutes with it's heavy feedback and masterful dynamics. I never liked the Mogwai Young Team Production, but here it sounds brilliant. The real highlight of the collection though has got to be New Paths to Helicon (Part 1). 4 Minutes of sweeping eerie beauty slowly climbing into an atomic bomb, which drops around the 4 minute mark. As soon as it hits, grown men will find it hard to not release a tear. It's beautiful. Perfection.. No filler here unlike CODY and dare I say it, Mogwai Young Team. If you're new to Mogwai, pick up Ten Rapid as it's an easy purchase, buy any other studio album and then get this. You don't want this to be your first Mogwai purchase, you might get disappointed later on.
Although it doesn't really seem like it, Mogwai have been around a few years now, and instead of releasing a stock-taking 'best of' have chosen to assemble this compilation of BBC session recordings. The album is culled from a variety of different sessions recorded between 1996 and 2003, although it flows somewhat like a live album, albeit minus any on-stage banter or any real audience noise. The band's performances are tight and impressive, and the live takes on 'Hunted By A Freak' and 'Cody' are pretty faithful to the original album versions. 'Kappa' seems to lack some of the power of the original, but the affecting hum of 'Superheroes of BMX' and the full-on 18 minute version of 'Like Herod' make up for it. The highlights, however, are the two parts of 'New Paths to Helicon' which buzz and stutter joyfully all over the place. This album isn't quite as good as seeing Mogwai live in the flesh (which I strongly recommend), but fans of the band are sure to be happy with this set and it may serve as a good introduction for any newcomers.
Having seen Mogwai live last year, I was hoping to find on this release some of the nuances and altered song structures I'd heard in person. At first I was a little disappointed, but as I listened, more and more I realised they do 'mix it up' from the album versions and the fact that they sound so complete and powerful here merits this worth buying for any Mogwai admirer or collector even if you own all the albums and EPs (like me). It's music for the soul, it can lift you when you're at your lowest, it can drag you down when you're highest. It's remarkable. Anyone interested in 'trying out' Mogwai need look no further for a starting purchase. This is an excellent introduction to the band, taking their slower, more accessible tracks to complete 'Government Commissions', then for future listening I'd suggest their debut 'Young Team' and then follow the albums in order. Classics such as 'Mogwai Fear Satan', 'Xmas Steps' are not on here, and that (I'm happy to say) leaves a heck of a lot of quality music to be discovered on their other releases. Young Team changed my life when I heard it in 1997, it's still as relevant today as it was then, and Government Commissions, I hope, will bring the Mogwai experience to many more new listeners.
Having recently been introduced to Mogwai, and bought the entire back catalogue, this collection encapsulates what makes Mogwai great and showcases their beautiful combination of quiet and incandescent rock music. if you like Sigur Ros then this is the place to start as an introduction to Mogwai.
They are dark, they are bright, they're angry but polight. They are Mogway !!! This cd is great, or even better like a greatest hits (although not all the best tracks by Mogway) of the band. Get it if you want to get into Mogway or if you want to experience some of their best live and radio recordings but please also listen to the other great work. Mogway Young Team, Come On Die Young, Mr Beast and the others.....(Ten Rapid!!!!!!)