Mogwai - The Hawk is Howling
(Wall of Sound)
The line between familiarity and contempt is drawn thinner than ever currently, but Mogwai, six albums and 12 years in, seem in no danger of wearing out their welcome.
Given how limiting the initial wordless loud-quiet-loud grind on which they barbecued their rock loins seemed, they’ve squeezed a whole rainbow of shades and colours from it with style, skill and no shortage of humour. They continue on this musical trajectory on The Hawk is Howling with more variations on these themes, a tactic that seems to work pretty damn well for them.
‘Batcat’ is the beastly rock song Slint might have made had they stopped mumbling into their Miller Lites and loosened up and threw down for us, ‘Local Authority’ is a perfect diffused star, blinking from a galaxy far, far away, while ‘The Sun Smells Too Loud’ is a novel change of pace, enjoying twinkling synth lines and an almost cheery sensibility.
There are moments that by their own definition are ‘very Mogwai’ – something that sounds profoundly stupid initially – but do find the band relying on recognizable forms and tricks to engage. ‘Scotland’s Shame’ fails but ‘The Precipice’, ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’ (anyone spot the Bill Hicks tribute here?) and ‘Danphe and the Brain’ throw out familiar shapes to considerable effect. ‘Thank You Space Expert’ and ‘Kings Meadow’ do relatively little, quite beautifully, like something Pete Namlook might drum up on one of his friskier ambient adventures while ‘I Love You, I’m Going to Blow Up Your School’ might sound worryingly Columbine in its ambitions, but is however a keen reflection of a song that holds one of the few moments of genuine bombast and terror here.
The Hawk is Howling sounds like a band in transience, assured that they know what they can do, but unsure just where to take it next. There has never been a definitive Mogwai album, they’ve spread their true gems pretty evenly over the last 12 years. The Hawk is Howling adds a few more to the trove.