|Young Team (Deluxe Edition) ~ 2CD Ref: CHEM106 CD|
REVIEWS FOR ORIGINAL RELEASE
NME - 25th October 1997
Album Of The Week
"Music is bigger than words and wider than pictures," says the girl, trying not to laugh. "If someone said that Mogwai are the stars I would not object. If the stars had a sound it would sound like this..."
Riiight. At the very beginning of 'Mogwai Young Team', there's a girl talking, struggling to articulate what makes this sprawling, reckless music so intensely beautiful. She grasps for similies and collapses with self-consiousness. She navigates a treacherous path across the yawning wastes of pretension. She succeeds. She fails. Then the music kicks in and shows that it is, indeed, far bigger than mere words. Whatever she says, however well-meaning, is utterly irrelevant... And that's our job f---ed, too.
Before we're consumed by the futility of our labours and reason NME out of existence, though, it's worth making at least one valedictory point: if you only buy one album this year that operates beyond the parameters of verse-chorus-verse-will-this-do? rock music, you'd better make it this one.
Why? Because 'Mogwai Young Team' is a phenomenal piece of work. It is shamelessly avant-garde, but shows that avant-garde can match 'straight' music for both heart-stopping melodies and adrenalised rock'n'roll ferocity. It is largely instrumental, but proves - as if it really needed proving - that instrumental music can express a generous sweep of emotions every bit as eloquently as lyrics.
This is what Mogwai do. Every few years, a band surfaces from the underground with their radical agenda intact yet able to cross over to a wider audience by virtue of their forcefulness and dynamism , by being just too f---ing good to be only appreciated by a tiny elite. Joy Division, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine pulled it off. Slint would've done if they hadn't self-destructed. Now it's the turn of their spiritual and artistic heirs; the unfeasibly young, unavoidably Glaswegian Mogwai.
Thus there is grace and anger here, frequently in the space of one effortlessly unravelling song. There are poignant, lulling piano pieces, Arab Strap's Aidan Moffat doing his virtuoso confessional mumbling on the lovely 'R U Still In 2 It' and a long phone conversation (in the background of Tracy's dreamy atmospherics) between drummer Martin Bulloch and the band's manager: Dominic Aitchison (bass) has had a row in the studio with Stuart Braithwaite (guitars and stuff), then punched him, walked out and claimed he's not returning. He always does of course.
You don't need vignettes like this, however, to be able to detect the crackling, volatile creativity that permeates every note of 'Mogwai Young Team' and adds to the ever-so-slightly crazed rock'n'roll spirit that informs everything this prodigious gang of protean miscreants do. As it happens, one member has left since the album was completed: eternally transitory, multi-instrumentalist Brendan O'Hare. His solo turn, 'With Portfolio' (titled after an NME review nailed him as the band's "Gibbon without portfolio") is the one bit of gratuitous brain-haemorrhaging, starting with gently Satie-esque tinkling before a cacophony - roughly akin to the tardis materialising within your skull - flits from one speaker to the other. The resulting effect is, depending on mood, either startlingly unlistenable or strangely bracing. Honestly.
More reliably, two seething epics illustrate what an extraordinarily powerful band Mogwai - just a few singles old, remember - have become. So 'Like Herod' (working title: 'Slint' - and it shows) is a tangle of ominous, brooding guitars that intermittently flares up into the kind of searing riff-madness any self-respecting death metal band would kill for. And the immense finale, 'Mogwai Fear Satan', lifts off from where Sonic Youth's 'Daydream Nation' ended: a pummelling and relentless ebb and flow of harmonious, textured noise. With frankly psychotic drums and, in the midst of all the carnage, a frail, billowing flute.
With Mogwai, y'see, there's a perverse logic to these things. They aim high, and frequently hit higher. They have fire and grandeur, melancholy and madness. They are, in a very real sense, "the stars". And, terrifyingly, they can almost certainly do better. Lost for words? Only for a moment. [9/10]
Melody Maker 1st November, 1997
"Music is bigger than words and wider than pictures" warns the voice at the opening. That's me out of a job, then. But she's right, of course, and trying to convey the emotional enormity and monumental critical mass that Mogwai, a bunch of impossibly talented and true Scottish upstarts weigh in with on this, their debut album proper, is like trying to set a table with forks of lightning or describe blueness to the blind. No can do.
Mogwai flex the kind of musical muscle which hasn't been allowed much of a workout in this country for years, due to the shifting sands of popular aesthetics and the simple fact that emotion-saturated sounds such as these tend to scare the bejesus out of most people. If you have any fear of feeling, then you'd be well advised to steer clear of the blast that is 'Mogwai Young Team'.
Taking up where the metaphysical thunderings of the mighty Loop, Main, The God Machine and, more recently, the beautifully humanised, quasi-Kraut rock of Telstar Ponies (whose Brendan O'Hare joined the fold earlier this year) left off, Mogwai fashion raw electricity into gravity-heavy melodies of impossibly sad sweetness and shimmering great black metallic sheets shot through with massive amounts of distortion. And although their roots may be buried in the seminal white-noise-as-pop of The Jesus And Mary Chain's 'Upside Down', their kindred spirits are more the likes of Velvet Underground, Labradford, Codeine and Bailterspace.
OK, so biggest isn't necessarily best, but 'Like Herod', a quasi-classical stormer that pivots on a deliciously obsessive riff, can't fail to impress with its sheer size (over 11 minutes) and a ferocious density that threatens to drain the National Grid. Elsewhere, the mantric 'Katrien' proves the orgasmic power of endless repetition, 'Radar Maker' echoes the orchestral delicacy of Rachel's' 'Music For Egon Schiele' and the terrifying 'With Portfolio' blows both minds and speakers with its outrageous phased left/right channelling, like Concorde just touched down inside your cochlea.
'Mogwai Young Team' is blessedly audacious - a mad risk taken by reckless noise-monsters, a fleet-footed, sure-handed miracle in an age that's become too safe by half. Buckle in and prepare for bliss.
SHARON O' CONNELL
VOX December 1997
Glasgow's lo-fi's get all the stars.
Welcome to the world of Mogwai, a place of symphonic instrumental bliss that makes your soul ache and your mind reel. The opening 'Long Way From Home' and 'Like Herod' goad and entice you with gentle percussion, leaving you helpless before the surge of sky-swallowing guitars that follows, every tilt and texture taking you further from what you know and expect.
A reworked 'Summer' (their debut single) is devastating, while 'Tracy' and 'Radar Maker' stoutly refuse to rock out and accordingly retain a helium-light touch. However, it's the closing 'Mogwai Fear Satan' that steals the show. Building from delicate two-note strumming to a relentless, ethereal groove, the 'Gwai attain a full-blown crescendo of sound that drowns you in waves of aggression, exhilaration and sorrow before it melts into silence. Fantastic. [5/5]