Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008
I Love You, I'm Going To Blow Up Your School
Photo by Frank Yang
Analogy of the day – Mogwai albums, and by extension their live shows, are like visiting the ocean. Technically, if you’ve been once (heard one), you’ve gotten the gist of it. Endless vistas, rolling waves, the majesty of nature (quiet quiet LOUD LOUD, darkly foreboding, mostly instrumental post-rock soundtrack to the end times).
But to take a “been there, done that” attitude is to miss the point – no matter how many times you stand at the coast, you never cease to be stunned by the immense and inspiring beauty of it all (or at least you shouldn’t if you have any kind of soul) and no matter how many times you’ve faced the combined amplified and visceral glory of the Scottish quintet, your pants will still flap and your teeth will still hurt and you will still love it. Or at least you should. Old material, new material, whatever – it’s about the kick in the head.
Closing out a strenuous two-date Canadian tour on Monday night at the Phoenix, the band appeared to be in good spirits. The set list was more about the new, previewing material from their forthcoming The Hawk Is Howling album (out September 23) though their back catalog was visited enough to satiate if not satisfy the faithful – no “Mogwai Fear Satan” or “My Father My King”, though I was a little relieved by that. I don’t think I could have handled the sustained assault. The new material sounded, well, it sounded like Mogwai and continued in the same path they’ve tread over the last couple albums – not as thunderous as the first couple records but not as gentle or “pop” as my personal favourite, Rock Action. The relative softening and expansion of their sound is most evident in the fact that Barry Burns now acts almost as a full-time keyboardist now, only taking third guitar duties for the older material.
Another consequence of their sonic evolution is the band’s former lock on the “loudest in the world” title (unofficial, of course). The first couple times I saw Mogwai live, people were collapsing from the onslaught (or maybe from the booze and drugs, I dunno, but attributing it to the volume is better myth-making) whereas this time, people were standing right up front without earplugs and not even flinching. Not me, but others less attached to their sense of hearing. But even turned down a bit, it was still hellaciously loud at points – a scorched earth “Like Herod” was a pointed response to anyone who might have thought the boys were getting a bit soft in their middle age but my favourite moments were the Rock Action selections – hearing “Secret Pint” and “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong” brought a smile to my face. The sound at the Phoenix was marvelous and the band sounded fantastic – because even though the ocean is still the ocean is always the ocean, sometimes it’s just that much more amazing.
Openers were local trio I Can Put My Arm Back On You Can’t whose name you may recognize as a reference to this and who traded in loud, fast, post-punk/hardcore with screamy/gutteral vocals and would have appealed to Mogwai fans who wished that band were louder, faster and with screamy/gutteral vocals. It’s a style of music that I’m familiar enough with to know I’m not a fan, but also able to recognize and respect proficiency which these guys had.
Mogwai will be back in town on September 24 for a show at the Kool Haus. Fansite Bright Light has the set list for the show and a couple fan reviews.
Photos: Mogwai, I Can Put My Arm Back On You Can’t @ The Phoenix – June 30, 2008
MP3: Mogwai – “The Sun Smells Too Loud”
MP3: Mogwai – “Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home”
MP3: Mogwai – “Tracy”
MP3: Mogwai – “Dial: Revenge”
MP3: Mogwai – “Hunted By A Freak”
MP3: Mogwai – “Folk Death 95”
MP3: Mogwai – “7:25”
Video: Mogwai – “Travel Is Dangerous”
Video: Mogwai – “Friend Of The Night”
Video: Mogwai – “Hunted By A Freak”
Video: Mogwai – “Dial: Revenge”
The AV Club puts Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Ed O’Brien in the hot seat. O’Brien also goes on The Daily Record about going green, Glastonbury and the amount of love lost between the band and EMI (very very little). They’re at the Molson Amphitheatre on August 15.