My love affair with Mogwai started way back in 1999 when I lived in the Netherlands for 3 months of my University course. At the time I’d never heard of the band but a friend introduced them to me in the form of Xmas Steps taken from Come On Die Young, which had just been released. By luck, the band happened to be touring that album and were stopping off in Nijmegen where we were based. Now on first listen to Xmas Steps I loved what I heard but from the moment I saw them live in that tiny Dutch venue I was completely hooked. As we sat cross legged on the floor listening to such delicate refrains suddenlty errupt into monsterous cacophonies of noise I knew that this was a band that I was going to follow through good times and bad. I have to say, that Young Team and CODY are 2 of their best albums and that after those albums they went through a period of producing good albums with scatterings of great songs but never a great album from start to finish. That was until the release of Mr Beast which in my opinion took them to a whole new level. Seeing them live twice on that tour – once in Cabaret Voltaire (oh yes, it was rammed!) and then at the Usher Hall, it was clear that this was a band who had finally nailed it. A band that had maybe spent a while trying to recapture the beauty of CODY and the power and intensity of Young Team. And with Mr Beast, every single song sparkled. The beauty of Friend of the Night is something to behold with the delicate piano sprinkled throughout the album adding a new dimension to their music. And so, as I knew about the forthcoming release of The Hawk is Howling, I wondered how they could possibly better their previous album. (As a side note, I should also comment that I love the soundtrack to the film about Zidane which pops up between albums proper). And so it is with some delight that I can honestly say that I think they have not only bettered Mr Beast but produced the album of their career so far. It’s a stunning portrait of moods created using only instruments, with absolutely no vocals on this record whatsoever. And yet it never fails to capture your imagination or directly affect your mood. I was feeling a little blue today and have been listening to the album since I finished lunch and I now feel inspired, hopeful and enriched. It’s an album bursting with life and ideas and I don’t want to stop listening to it! I guess the best advice I can give about this album is go and buy it. As author Iain Rankin says about it:
I’m about to stop writing. You’re about stop reading. We’re going to listen instead.