posted on March 22, 2009 12:43
Mogwai (live in The Academy, Dublin)
Review Snapshot: A long overdue Dublin gig by the purveyors of post-rock brings The Academy to never-before reached sonic levels on the opening night of a 3-day residency at the Dublin venue. The Hawk is Howling might disappoint in its recorded format, but it was the focal point around which this gig rocked.
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
The term "post-rock" has attached to it Celtic Tiger levels of stigma - who coined the phrase, who invented it, who pioneered it, who defines it? From Slint to Explosions In The Sky, there have been many life-altering post-rock moments but for me post-rock was born upon hearing Mogwai's 'Like Herod' at Witnness 2003. Its raucous and tense "bridge-chorus" section completely outshone the quiet-then-loud formula of bands I worshipped like The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana. As much as Mogwai might dislike being pigeonholed by an umbrella term, their live show does put them head and shoulders above whatever people may consider their contemporaries in the spectrum of instrumental rock.
Although never quite reaching their characteristic earplug-essential levels of loudness in this intimate club gig, the set-closing rock-out of 'Like Herod' and 'Batcat' - along with an intense feed of strobe lighting - was awesome. Leaving the stage before 10pm, there was a palpable sense of anti-climax amongst the crowd. They needn't have worried. Returning with an encore consisting solely of the 20 minute-plus epic 'My Father My King', it was the closest thing to metaphysical I had encountered since being told to use the term on the Yeats' question in the Leaving Cert. Centred around one brief arabic-esque melody, the track is somehow kept alive with intricate riff variations and in particular the crunching guitar of Stuart Braithwaite. This is all sounds very Spinal Tap - especially since the volume was turned up to eleven - but it works. Well worth checking out the Steve Albini-produced EP that brought this track to life.
'Scotland's Shame' aside, this reviewer was not overjoyed with Mogwai's latest offering The Hawk Is Howling. However the layered crescendo of 'I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead' and Barry Burns' eerie keyboard tinkering on 'Thank You Space Experts' did give the album a new breath of life in its live format. Burns himself induced the biggest headf**k of the evening with some indistinguishable-yet-haunting vocoder acappella at the end of 'Hunted By A Freak'. I'm going to park this review now, Mogwai's is not a medium to which words can do justice. In a dream world, these guys would be filling stadiums in their own right but until then lets hope they play the Electric Picnic.