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Mogwai - Mr. Beast

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Artist: Mogwai

Album: Mr. Beast

Label: Matador

Review date: May. 31, 2006

Like anyone else whose ears left the 1990s, I was surprised to discover Mogwai chiselling away at the coalface in 2006. Running with Slint’s instrumental quiet-loud binary and reducing any of that group’s sensitivity to a cluster of theatrical rock gestures, Mogwai always sounded ball-less. They were/are also one of the groups most responsible for reducing post-rock’s deconstructive questing spirit to a mathematical equation that simplistically paralleled crushing volume with male pain. (Is there any music more studiously geek-masculine and colourless than this school of post-rock?)

Mr. Beast is more of the same, but then progression was never really Mogwai’s forte: they only slip out of their comfort zones if they leave a Breadcrumb Trail of clues back to familiar territory. If anything, they sound more desperate (note: not a good thing) than before, the bluster of “Travel is Dangerous” and “Glasgow Mean-Snake” both indie rock takes on emo melodrama. The quiet, reflective songs like “Acid Food” are bedroom recordings rejected from a post-Rodan project in the late 90s. The vocals mumble incoherently, as vocals often do. It’s all very…non-committal? By rote?

Mogwai are the kind of group that thinks ‘expanding the palette’ means slapping electronics on top of bedsit melodrama. Their efforts at stretching boundaries falter because they have inscribed themselves within such narrow aesthetic parameters, hitting a fourth chord feels like a massive achievement. Mr. Beast tries to be anthemic, but it lacks anthems (I was begging for an Aerosmith record after reaching the third song) and its other songs are stuck in perpetual regress.

Mogwai’s current manager Alan McGee, talking up Mr. Beast, described it as ‘better than My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless’, obviously phoning it in from another universe. Loveless remains so powerful because you surface new depths after the hundredth listen. With Mr. Beast, in comparison, there is no mystery - everything is on display.

By Jon Dale

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