Monday, May 26, 2008

Album Review: Mogwai

Mogwai - 'Mogwai Young Team (re-issue).' (Chemikal Underground)

I had a dream the other night. No, this is true: I was talking to some of the younger students I teach and they were raving about Mogwai. It was a dream: I know, because I woke up then, and realised that a: it was absurd that kids who were born after Kurt Cobain died would know who Mogwai are, even here in Scotland, and b) I was dead excited about the tenth anniversary re-issue of this album.

I can't remember the first time I heard about Mogwai, but I remember that there were two things that clinched me having to buy the original issue of this album (obviously, on vinyl) in 1998. I'd heard them on a free CD with NME, and been blown away by a track called 'Ex-Cowboy' which would appear on the following year's Come On Die Young LP, and knew I had to get the album. Secondly, Andy Cairns from Therapy? had said that his definition of heaven was scuba diving listening to this album and Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation LP on waterproof headphones. Did such things exist? And who were this scottish band?

Well, there's been many wonderful Mogwai moments since then. The twenty minute long workout? epic? post-epic song that is 'My Father My King.' That gorgeous collaboration with the Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys 'Dial:Revenge' on the Rock Music LP. the thrill of seeing them get a top 40 single...and of course, finally getting to see them live in 2003 at Edinburgh's Queen's Hall. When they played 'Like Herod' at ...that moment, I thought I'd lose my hearing.

But you know, I'd rather lose my hearing and say it was down to 'Like Herod' than say 'My Heart Will Go On' or 'Money For Nothing.' And it's one of the standout tracks on this album. It was just so...other. I wasn't aware of the concept of post-rock then, but the songs on this album blew me away. I was just discovering label-mates Arab Strap at the same time, and was pleased to see Aidan Moffat was on the record too. What was with those titles? New Order's titles seemed random, but these titles were something else again. The record was instrumental, and yet there were voices, but where did this fit in?

So many surprises within the album. The opening 'Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home' the aforementioned '...Herod.' And then the finale on side 4 of the vinyl: 'Mogwai Fear Satan.' Just three notes or so it seems, but it takes the whole concept of repetition beyond anything that even The Fall had done with it. Is it like film music, music to lose yourself/find yourself in (this is not about polar opposites, indeed I think they are increasingly one and the same thing) or a manifesto?

And now, the album comes re-mastered (apparently the older version was difficult to hear in places), with bonus tracks. It's beautifully packaged, especially if you get the vinyl, and includes unreleased, live and rare as anything tracks. Their cover of 'Honey' by Spaceman 3 is gorgeous, though the only thing that let's the second disc down is what seems like a sloppy version of 'Summer (Priority Version).'

But, small quibbles. Is this the best album Mogwai have ever made? I'm not sure that I have a favourite, but I've fallen head over heels for this again.

And if I ever get to scuba dive, then I'm taking this, Daydream Nation and Therapy?'s Troublegum on underwater headphones. It would only be polite.

Mogwai website/Mogwai myspace

Mogwai -'Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home.' mp3


Jim said...

One of my favourite albums. I actually let out a squeal of delight twice last week because of it, once when it surfaced on Monday on emusic making my new subscription there worthwhile in one fell swoop, and again when my CD copy dropped through the letterbox on Saturday.
It's possibly one of the first time I've actually listened to a remastered album and been able to hear the improvements too, the quiet bits on the original do get a bit *too* quiet at times, rendering them almost unheard. Especially when you've got ears that have suffered a few years of abuse.

I can hardly believe I was a young impressionable 18-19 year old when I bought this the first time round, they've got a lot to answer for.

Their website is always good for a laugh too, especially if like me you happen to support the same footie team as them.

Anonymous said...

Hello 17 seconds, i'm back online, financially destitute, but at least i'm in my my new house, most of our white goods broke or wouldn't fit and i appear to have done some serious damage to my back moving the vinyl and cd's, but alive and happy, looking forward to perusing the posts i've missed, already spotted the garage rock post which looks tempting

jalal said...

First time I've heard about mogwai was in a interview from Robert Smith. I am sad that here in france not many people even involved in indie music cares about them. They have really inspired me in my way of playing the guitar.

Ed said...

Jim - it is an excellent website, especially if you're a Celtic fan, i guess!

A.J. Good to have you back, hope you're feeling better

Jalal - am surprised they are nto more popular in France as i know that robert smith is a big fan and wondered if in France that might have encouraged other people to check them out.

Anonymous said...

the first time I heard of Mogwai, Jo Whiley was playing "New Paths . . ."on her saturday show (when she actually played some decent tunes), rushed into Glasgow to track down the 7", eventually getting it in John Smiths on Byers Rd (now a feckin starbucks), happy days.


Ed said...

It seems impossible to get new vinyl on Byres Rd these days, though the second hand record shops around there are still excellent.