Music Reviews
Mr. Beast

Mogwai Mr. Beast

(PIAS Recordings) Rating - 9/10

Like the truck in Spielberg's Duel, Mogwai keep on rolling and just keep getting bigger. The last few years have been busy for the Glasgow five-piece. 2003 saw a smashing studio LP, Happy Songs for Happy People, followed by much deserved retrospective in the shape of their BBC sessions collection, Government Commissions, a showcase for ten years of apocalyptic awe. They've toured the States on the Curiosa tour at the request of Robert Smith, played All Tomorrow's Parties for Slint, and toured the Far East, which I suspect may still be recovering. They've also been busy remixing work by the likes of Bloc Party and Kid 606, as well as selling out a five-night run at that hive of high culture, London's ICA. Their status as one of the UK's most important guitar bands, and their reputation for a rigorous combination of ethics and aesthetics in their work, has spread beyond the UK underground and garnered them a global following, without the necessity for attempts at populism or to water down their style.

In recent years, Mogwai have broadened in scope. The monstrous exceptionally-quiet-to-suddenly-bowel-wreckingly loud approach of their early work reached its zenith on the twenty minute single My Father My King, and was complicated by the inclusion of vocals and experimental percussion on the surprisingly restrained Rock Action. Happy Songs for Happy People expanded their palette, demonstrating a band growing in maturity and depth. Mr Beast then, whose title suggests a return to music to torture civilians by, is perhaps their most ambitious album yet, and demonstrates Stuart Braithwaite's growing confidence as a composer and arranger. Obviously there are still thunderous guitars. Opener Auto-Rock is an adults-only warning shot, albeit blessed with a beer-soaked piano promising complexities to come. Glasgow Mega-Snake is exactly what we would expect next - a furious, sustained assault on the senses, proof that the title is no idle boast.

Throughout the album, though, there are tracks that demonstrate the band's ever-growing confidence and range. The upcoming single, Friend of the Night, is blessed with post-classical piano passages, while I Chose Horses is a melancholic lament including contributions from Tetsuya Fukagawa on vocals and, of all people, Craig Armstrong playing keyboards. Strange bedfellows all but, the offspring, like the album as a whole, is compelling and emotionally charged.

What's been great about following the Mogwai story is seeing their growth and development. Braithwaite once remarked that everything in their music had to have a purpose, a direction (unlike Placebo B-sides, he also remarked). Over the last ten years we've witnessed them build, explore and experiment in sound. Their back-catalogue is brilliant. Their current output is startling. How long before we proclaim them the undisputed heavyweight champions of the world?