Liam McGrady 13/01/2006
As part of the sold out 5 night residency at London's Institute Of Contemporary Art, I find myself virtually quivering with anticipation at witnessing Glasgow's Post-Rock veterans, on this, the unluckiest of Friday's. The usual fear with these multiple gigs at the same venue, is that you'll have either missed the band at their first night best, or be tantalisingly close to finding them at their warmed up peak. Tonight I couldn't care less, I love Mogwai; seeing them in any form is enough for me, and while I don't suppose this makes for an objective review, again, I couldn't care less.
This series of gigs is to be the showcase for new studio album 'Mr Beast' a billed as somewhat confusingly, both a return to out and out noise territory and “the best art rock record ever”; and although that quote is from the ever excitable mouth of Alan McGee, it's not a bad stab at a description.
Embraced by what is obviously a fiercely loyal crowd, the band kick off proceedings with a host of new songs. 'Auto Rock', 'Travel Is Dangerous': 'Acid Food', all distinctively Mogwai (will there ever be a review of this band without mentioning the quiet-loud thing? Guess not) with Stuart Braithwaite and John Cummings duelling with guitars: the winner whoever extracts the most heart-shatteringly beautiful sound from their instruments. But beneath the lead lines sits an elegant and gentle electronic undercurrent, provided by Barry Burns from behind a battery of keyboards and computers. One new song, and I forget which, features a full vocal. It becomes clear that the “Art Rock” tag that the band have always considered themselves as, has finally become relevant. When Piano led new single, 'Friend Of The Night' is unveiled mid way through the set, it confirms the suspicions that many of the new tracks are actually songs, with beginnings, and middles and ends and everything.
Of course we are treated to some old favourites and this is where it gets interesting. My hopes are high for 'My Father My King', 'Like Herod' or 'Mogwai Fear Satan'. Unfortunately none come; only the elegiac 'Hunted By A Freak' - which is followed swiftly by monster new track 'We're No Here' that recalls Mogwai of old: a gradual sweep through the octaves, building up to one thrashed chord at ear bleeding volume - really satisfies my need for a bone-fide classic; until the epic 'New Paths To Helicon pt.1 & 2' thunder from the stage.
People often question how being subjected to a barrage of static like distortion can be in anyway pleasurable; but until you've felt the relentless onslaught of sound from Mogwai, reaching ever higher peaks of sonic havoc, then felt the relief of the graceful coda on 'New Paths…' you probably wouldn't understand.
As expected, Mogwai well and truly take control at the ICA. It could have been louder though.