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  Rock Action  
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Mogwai started off as a bunch of lads from Glasgow intent on making some serious noise with their guitars. They were quite good at it, so they garned a bit of success.

Over time their sound has changed some. They still make a lot of sound, but rather than it being all distorted fuzz and feedback they have instead begun to craft layer upon layer of delicate sound.

I like both aspects of the band, from their noisy beginnings up to the current slow masterpiece that is Rock Action. A lot of other fans disagree with me, but oh well. I think that the growth that Mogwai have shown during their career has been quite logical. I understand how they went from loud and noisy, to balanced noise in quiet soundscapes, to calm and complicated guitar masterpieces. I think that as they got more proficient they began experimenting with slower guitar textures.

At any rate -- they changed. Rock Action very logically follows 1999's Come On Die Young. Again, Mogwai are building complicated songs out of seemingly simple chiming guitar bits.

But that's not all they do. It's not as if Mogwai have abandoned all that they had done before in order to make slow mellow music. You Don't Know Jesus and 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong would have fit in fine on previous Mogwai releases.

I think that part of the difference between early Mogwai and this album is that they now have the money and luxury to fully explore the fine art of recording, whereas on their earlier work they had to make their point known on a tight budget. And let me just say that Mogwai have come to REALLY know what they are doing in the studio. The drums on this album are recorded with amazing clarity, as are the guitars. The horns and strings (when they are used) are recorded at a level to blend in perfectly with the music. It's all really well done. (I recommend listening with headphones.)

Now, like so many of the so-called "post-rock" bands do these days, Mogwai uses stringed instruments on this album. They are there in the background of Take Me Somewhere Nice, Dial: Revenge, and 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong. These strings add a really nice accent to the guitars. Also, the brief interlude O I Sleep has a lovely little piano bit, carrying along with the general "classical" feel. Adding a classical element to rock music is very trendy these days, and i think that Mogwai pull it off nicely.

A big change for Mogwai with this album is the use of vocals. O I Sleep has lead Mogwai Stuart Braithwaite muttering breathy vocals over the piano bit. Dial: Revenge features Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals singing lead. I think this song is noteworthy, because of all of Mogwai's work to date it most resembles a normal pop song in that a vocal melody is ever-present. Of course, Gruff (And isn't that the manliest name ever? I imagine that he travels through Wales killing bears with his bare hands!) sings in Welsh, so that is a little different. At any rate -- this is a nice little song. He has a good voice, and the Welsh language sounds kinda cool.

There are also strange little electronic bits and noodles floating around Rock Action. Sine Wave, the albums opener, is crushed under a weight of computer noise. Later in the album the aptly named interlude Robot Chant brings the computer noise back. Also, the computer noise is there in the background, behind the banjo and organ, at the end of 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong.

I think that Mogwai have taken the general framework of their music and expanded it. Sure, a lot of their playing has slowed down, but they have added in new instruments and new ways of recording their delicate songs that makes the music really beautiful.

I continue to be impressed by their recorded output. If you have never heard them before, this is a nice place to start listening.

Related Links:
  Mogwai in concert for Rock Action.  

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