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Orchestral manoeuvres in the dark.According to alt rock cliché, Mogwai are surmised thus: 1. Eminently quotable contrarians (remember their “Blur Are Shite” shirts?) and, 2. Purveyors of the finest epic noise that alternative rock has to offer.
On the eve of their fifth album, Mr Beast, and halfway through a five-night curatorial residency at London’s ICA, Stuart Braithwaite and Dominic Aitchison are in fine form. As for their reputation? Alan McGee has described Mr Beast as “the greatest art rock record since My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless”. Which is a rather back-handed compliment considering that album brought McGee’s Creation Records to the brink of bankruptcy, preceding Kevin Shields’ 10-year disappearance into the studio. Stuart: “Kevin was at the gig last night and he wants to see our studio. Maybe he’ll rent it for a decade.”
Their fifth studio album was recorded in the band’s own Castle Of Doom studios in Glasgow. Hailed as a return to bone-crushing noise, it’s as varied a record as its precursor, 2003’s Happy Songs For Happy People, leaving their notorious quiet/loud/quiet/very loud dynamics for live performance. “All of our albums, apart from Mogwai Young Team, are pretty subdued… I think one of the reasons we’ve avoided doing extreme noise is that you can never record it well.”
Since the release of Happy Songs, Mogwai have toured the States on the Curiosa tour, invited by Robert Smith, and witnessed with horror the American phenomenon of the “jam band” – note-perfect professionals like Dave Matthews Band. According to Stuart, “Probably the antithesis of everything we wanted to achieve. So we threw our tie-dyed shirts in the bin, burnt our bandanas and joined the Conservative Party. Everything has to be in its right place.”
Mogwai – Mr Beast, released 30 January 06 on PIAS.
Read members' comments related to this feature.
comment by phlard Mar 8, 2006Any man who brought Oasis to the fore front of the british 'imagination' should always be taken with a pinch of salt.
MBV are mercurial - only a smattering of official releases. two of which are sublime - I personally prefer 'isn't anything' which I was introduced to on hairy rides down to brighton in my mate's clapped out sierra.
Whilst I like mogwai a lot and have seen them more times live than mbv they don't appear to really progress to my mind. Their live sound is awesome - I've seen them about five times now and they just leave you feeling fragile by then end of their set. However, this doesn't translate to the best art album in 10 years or so. It's good but not that good.
this piece should be read quietly and then loudly, quietly and then loudly.
comment by Alastair Lee editor Feb 1, 2006there's no way you can translate the barrage of sound i experienced at this gig to record. i was floating in a dreamworld of feedback. superb.
comment by tunnamonk Jan 31, 2006I sincerely hope that Mogwai cannot transmit their live sound to record. There would be no point in going to see 'em live then and unless you have some serious hi-fi equipment you will not experience that awesome sonic assault that they are only to happy inflict... must be a glaswegian thing!
comment by D_Woo Jan 30, 2006I sincerely hope that Mogwai can transmit their live sound to record. Their gigs are dizzyingly confrontational, a sensory onslaught; while I enjoy their third and fourth LPs hugely, a move into more blood-curdling territory would be welcome.
As for McGee, I think he's somewhat prone to exaggeration.
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