Monday, June 26, 2006

Mogwai / Mr. Beast / Rating : 6.8

Ladies and Gentlemen please join me in welcoming the newewst addition to the Tuning Fork staff (drum roll please) Outerupt (applaud here). His test review / practice run was so darn impressive that not only did it warrant me posting it ASAP but earned him a permanent place at the TFM table.

Welcome to the family my good man.

"The longest song on Mr. Beast, Mogwai’s fifth studio album, runs 5:46.
The entire LP clocks under 45 minutes. Ordinarily, this isn’t the kind of thing you’d bother pointing out in a record review, but…"

But… But what? If it’s not normally worth mentioning, why pray tell, mention it to me now What’s that? Oh, I see. You aim to criticize Mogwai’s most recent release for being all too brief. I understand. You were so enthralled with the record, really feeling its highs and lows, enjoying the subtle undulations between the glassy melodies and grit-toothed riffage of "Glasgow Mega-Snake", the jackhammer knocks on the drums and playful syncopation of "Folk Death 95," the nuanced interplay of synth and acoustic elements and soaring crescendos of "Friend of the Night," that eerie-soft-bass vocal delivery unfolding under layers of instrumentation in "Travel is Dangerous," and the destructive barn-burning of "We’re No Here" had you feeling pains in places you hadn’t felt since you were 12. And just when you had completely lost yourself in the record, tears just starting to well up, it came to an all too abrupt end. Well, I’d say that’s a reasonable criticism. I mean, who doesn’t get a little upset at the end of a great movie when all the conflicts have been only slightly resolved and the screen goes black and white with the rolling credits, or when a sandwich with just the right amount of mayo, a perfectly ripe tomato, crisp lettuce and freshly sliced roast beef comes down to the final delicious bite? And this record is no different right? You’re left empty, longing for more… Oh no wait… you just want to make some trivial and misguided point about how you like Mogwai when they play tunes that drone on longer than the average Mahler symphony or Bush II state of the union address. You want me to believe that on some art-crit level of objectivity that Mogwai are better when they "let their music breathe, ebb, flow and stretch…" What is this some girly mid-seventies fanzine review of a Lynyrd Skynyrd solo? And since when does PFM like overlong songs? Didn’t Doug Martsch just get lambasted for his noodling on Built to Spill’s recent You in Reverse? (Hmm… yeah they gave that a 6.8 too… weird)? And last, but most crucially, what Mogwai records have you been listening to? I’m unfamiliar with a wealth of releases from this band that extend past the 10-minute mark. In fact, just for fun, lets collect up a few REAL points about this band and it’s history of long players:

1. In the entire career catalog of 5 full-length studio albums from these guys only 3 out of 49 songs has ever exceeded 10 minutes. That’s a little over 6% and not a lot of material to work with for a band that garnered a 9.6 from Pitchfork for their debut album Young Team.
2. While 2 out of those 3 songs are from Young Team, the average song length on that record is still around 6 and a half minutes despite those
2 long tracks taking up around 43% of the record.
3. The average song length for all of the four albums preceding Mr.
Beast is about 5:23.
4. The album with the greatest number of songs over 8 minutes is Come on Die Young, which is the lowest scoring Mogwai release on Pitchfork (6.1).
5. Rock Action scored an 8.0 on Pitchfork and clocks in at 38.5 minutes and has but two songs over 8 minutes and none over 10.

Moment of clarity: This record builds upon the many achievements this band has made since its initial release in 1997, condensing and expanding themes where necessary and presenting ideas with elegance and clarity. If anything, you might fault Mr. Beast for being more polished than earlier releases but hey, what’s so wrong with polish when it sounds this good? And it comes with a DVD. SWEET!