Mogwai - Mr Beast / Excepter - Alternation
So a little delayed, but I'm finally getting started; since tackling the whole thing at once or even in chunks is way too much effort for me right now, I'll be doing these one at a time, and hopefully (at least) one a day. This is the list I submitted to Stylus, with one addition in this entry, and I don't even pretend this is still what I'd put down as my twenty favourite records of 2006; but it is twenty good ones, mostly not too terribly overexposed, and I certainly don't feel any regret.
So, to begin with, my #20 and the one that narrowly got bumped off the list once I realised I'd forgotten Phoenix (that would be Excepter). I went back and forth quite a bit on which of these I liked more, but ultimately Mogwai is the one I'd rather listen to for pleasure. Because I don't quite get "pleasure" from Alternation
, even if what I do get might be more valuable.
But one at a time! Mr Beast
may not have the best songs Mogwai has ever done (or at least, not all of them - although I'd make a case for "Travel Is Dangerous," "Glasgow Mega Snake" and the deceptively swooning "Friend of the Night") but it is resolutely their best album,* one where even the weaker tracks make perfect sense as parts of a whole, where brevity and power and nuance manage to collide perfectly. They pull off the same trick here that Constantines did on the underrated Tournament of Hearts
, making their best record without quite hitting the heights they did before - maybe because
they don't aim that high? Or maybe because both albums are so obsessively cohesive that it's harder to see highlights. "Team Handed" and "Emergency Trap" may not be songs I'll be putting on mixtapes, or even ones I can remember real well, but in context they, bluntly, work.
It doesn't hurt that Mr Beast
manages to be both the hardest and the softest Mogwai have ever been on an LP; it avoids the absurd excesses of their first two records, the oddly unsatisfying sheen of Happy Music For Happy People
and barely outshines the great Rock Action
by dint of better sequencing and the fact that it turns out that a lack of epics suit the band. This is the first Mogwai album I love where I'd like to see them build on this sound; Come On Die Young
and Rock Action
felt more like they'd gone as far as they should and it was time to try something new.
As for Excepter, I'm just going to go ahead and post a conversation we had about it on the Stylus staff message boards.Derek Miller:
] is a rather odd space for the band after their first few releases, more in the vein of Sunbomber
Yes. I quite like it actually. It's literally the most basic, fundamental thing they could possibly do. Ennui in a bottle. Yeah.Mike Powell:
Yeah, totally agreed. They're officially one of the most bored-sounding bands ever.Jeff Siegel:
Bored, but not boring. That's the key isn't it--how Uncle Andy put it?Mike Powell:
(The sound of our brains humming in unison, shattering the fragile champagne flute of mediocrity)Jeff Siegel:
I didn't think it was possible, but I've somehow managed to get "Ice Cream Van" stuck in my head.Mike Powell:
Because it is so awesomeJeff Siegel:
This is the fucking weirdest, most out-of-the-blue thing I've come across in a long time.Mike Powell:
Do you really think it's out of the blue? It makes perfect sense to me... and I'm not saying that to be weird or anything.Ian Mathers:
I won't be able to tell whether I like this or not for, oh, another ten or so listens. But I can tell I'm going to enjoy the process.Stewart Voegtlin:
Excepter certainly enjoys the process. The only other band who's patient enough to let songs "develop on their own" is NNCK. I think Excepter is stunning, and they ain't gettin' as much love as they should be. Dada dance band? Angst ridden disco? Coil meets LFO? All the above, yo.Ian Mathers:
Okay, I don't think I've been able to go a day without listening to this since I last posted (24 days before) in this thread. And that's fucking bizarre for me. Alternation
is pretty severely eating/rewiring my brain.Mike Powell:
I find this admission both disturbing and laudable.Stewart Voegtlin:
That's funny, Mike. I felt the same way when I read it this a.m.Ian Mathers:
I finally managed to delete the damn thing off of my iPod (although not, of course, my hard drive**) tonight. My coworkers were, seriously, beginning to complain. They said it was "creepy". I find myself listening to it and half the time enjoying it without thinking, and the other half of the time sort of listening with part of my mind removed from the experience, asking the rest of me "and what are you getting out of this, exactly?" "The Rock Stepper" is pretty much the only song I know that I wish was an hour long.
*My favourite Mogwai album is Come On Die Young
(absurdly long running time and all), so if you're one of many who thinks they stopped being good after the over-rated Young Team
, go fetch some salt.
**Yes, I bought a real copy.