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4 stars Mogwai, one of the most important groups of the post rock movement (though they hate the tag), saying you don't know Mogwai is saying you don't know one of the most important groups in instrumental rock history. With their debut, Young Team, Mogwai gave the world a taste of what Post rock would become, a culmination of twin guitars, moving from arpeggio to arpeggio, either getting louder or softer, in a lengthy song to climax in some of the noisiest songs in history. The loud soft technique, probably the most crucial element to the average post rock band today, and I believe Mogwai played a huge part in exploiting this song style into the... Mainstream

Anyways, enough with their history, Mogwai released their newest album not too long ago, the follow up to the much mellower, and more solemn Mr. Beast; The Hawk is howling. Not only does this one show the group returning to the Happy songs for Happy people days with some catchy melodies, and some sense of humor, but also bring the extremely noisy pseudo metal days of Young Team. Therefore giving us a superb album, no masterpiece, but definitely better than Mr. Beast, and on par with Happy songs. The first half of the album, very mellow, and easy listening, with some typical (too typical?) post rock songs, except Batcat, which brings back their metal tendencies right out into the open for everyone to see, a very bold statement. Also we get the signal for the album, the sun smells too loud which sounds like it came straight out of happy songs, but nonetheless one of my favorite tracks. After the chill out track, Kings meadow, Mogwai return to their epic ways, which they haven't been around since their debut, which extremely excites me! The next three songs are all around eight minutes long, all slightly melancholic, and all climax with incredibly and/or heavy sections. My favorite of these is probably I love you, I'm going to blow up your school which is slightly more impactful to me because of it's absurd amount of melancholia.

I will admit, there really is not crazy stand out tracks like Mogwai fear satan, hunted by a freak, or Friend of the night, which is definitely a buzzkill considering that the album as a whole is pretty solid. Where there seems to be an increase in energy, and dynamic songs since Mr. Beast, besides the signal, there is a lack of catchy melodies which the band seemed to capitalize so well on in the last album. If they could only bring the trifecta of epic climaxes, catchy melodies, and energy together, the album would have the potential to be a masterpiece. Well, it's a very good album anyways, definitely a step up from their last, which was also good. I haven't heard all the output from this group, but from what I have heard, I haven't found a masterpiece yet. 4 stars

Report this review (#185410)
Posted Sunday, October 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "The Hawk is Howling" is the 6th full-length studio album by Scottish post-rock act Mogwai. That´s if you don´t count the soundtrack album "Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait" (2006) which bridges the gap between the band´s 5th full-length studio album "Mr. Beast" (2006) and "The Hawk is Howling". "The Hawk is Howling" was released in September 2008 through Wall of Sound, Play It Again Sam and Matador in the UK, Europe, and the US, respectively. A companion EP titled "Batcat" was released three weeks prior to the release of "The Hawk is Howling", featuring a slightly different version of the "Batcat" album track, and two additional tracks in "Stupid Prick Gets Chased by the Police and Loses His Slut Girlfriend", and the Roky Erickson collaboration track "Devil Rides".

Stylistically the material on "The Hawk is Howling" continue the by now signature instrumental post-rock sound that the band have developed since their inception in 1995 (this time fully instrumental). It´s predominantly guitars , bass, and drums driven music (there are some piano and organ on the album too), slow building and featuring repetitive rhythmic and melodic beats/motifs, and generally quite melodic and accessible. There are a few tracks on the album ( "Batcat" and "The Precipice") which are slightly harder edged than the remaining material and not too far from a post-metal sound. Distorted and a bit more noisy than the usual Mogwai track (not that they haven´t had harder edged tracks on their albums before) but most songs on the album are mellow and melodic in nature.

The musicianship are on a high level on all posts. Mogwai understand the importance of dynamics in music and they use both mellow/low volume parts as well as noisy distorted parts to great effect. This is not complex music in terms of technical skill but it´s played with great conviction and requires the above mentioned understanding and mastering of dynamic playing. One of the assets of "The Hawk is Howling" is the organic and bass heavy sound production, which suits the material perfectly, and which further enhances the listening experience. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#210639)
Posted Tuesday, April 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have actually had Mogwai's Young Team for a while, but never been able to get through the whole thing. That said, The Hawk is Howling is a pretty enjoyable album. It covers a lot of different tonal colorings, from mellow and light to intense and metallic. There are plenty of great songs on this album, but I think that some of them are crying out for vocals, which is why I gave this album 3 stars even though it deserves 3.5 because of the instrumental proficiency on some of the songs. I really like some of the things that the bassist does, too. This is just one of those albums that has several enjoyable and technically excellent songs, but some of the songs seem bare as instrumentals and would have benefited greatly from the addition of vocals. The album on the whole is very good, but I don't feel compelled to listen to it again. It is just missing that intangible X factor for me. If you're really into post rock, though, this is a great album to get.
Report this review (#210912)
Posted Friday, April 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The latest (to date) studio album from the Scottish rockers of MOGWAI offers another heady mix of raw emotion and icy intellect: an irresistible combination to armchair egg-headbangers like myself.

As with earlier albums the music, all of it instrumental, is suitably moody in an upbeat sort of way (not a contradiction with this band). It might have all sounded way too solemn if not for the tongue-in-cheek absurdity of the song titles: "The Sun Smells Too Loud"; "I Love You, I'm Going to Blow Up Your School"; and (my favorite) the powerful album opener "I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead". The music itself is never less than impeccable, but the titles might be the best thing here.

There are, as any fan would expect, moments of true musical beauty, even during the album's harsher moments. "Batcat" is a good example of a quintessential Mogwai thrash: aggressive and gloomy and altogether invigorating, at the same time. But the Post Rock label continues to baffle me. This isn't post- anything; the album is a model of up-to-the-minute guitar aesthetics, no less rebellious than anything released in the 1960s (even by dead Jim Morrison). And it sure ain't Math Rock, unless your level of arithmetic stops after counting up to four (or occasionally six).

The tempos don't vary much; the chords are rarely surprising; and the contrasts are limited to quiet and loud (and when you begin with one you can invariably expect to end with the other). But it all works, in the same way that the music of a band like OZRIC TENTACLES works in the parallel universe of psychedelia: with integrity and passion (it likewise helps that there isn't any singing to distract attention away from the substance of the music).

Fans of longer standing than myself can nitpick the differences between this and earlier albums, but why bother? It's enough to simply acknowledge another strong effort from one of the more consistent bands around today.

Report this review (#214269)
Posted Thursday, May 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Being a late arrival on the Mogwai scene this album strikes as refreshing and uplifting more so than some of the ealier works. I recall seeing this band live way back in 2000 and the one thing that struck me at the time was that they sounded lacklustre and bored. Maybe it was the venue, who knows. Anyhow this 2008 release begged the question if many fans were finding this just another ' automatic pilot' release then why were other listeners on the opposite side of the spectrum in terms of opinion? The albums starts off with the stereotypical " I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead" opener. If anything this plays out the least in new territory. The dark ' Batcat' follows, try see the video on youtube, great for raising chills up and down your spine. No major climax but a solid dirge of perpetual creeping nervousness. Sounds like a soundtrack to a SAW movie! " The Sun Smells Too Loud" is arguably the most commercial track and it is quite uplifting if only to suffer from being repetitive in a irritating sort of way. the strong points are ' Scotland's Shame' and the closing " precipice" which gives GSYBE a run for their money. This is a great album from a consistent band that give post rock/math rock a good name. It is little wonder this band is so highly praised by the likes of Robert Smith from the Cure. The Hawk is Howling comes as strongly recommended and worthwhile if you are new to Mogwai ways to start on this album first and work backwards.
Report this review (#230308)
Posted Friday, August 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Scottish band Mogwai is often mentioned between post-rock roots musicians. This their album, more than 10 years after their glorious early works, still rocks.

Guitars sound, repetitive musical structures, mixture of acoustic and noisy, energy and dreamy relaxed songs - all these usual components are presented on this album as well. Musicianship level is good, songs are different enough in melodies, rhythms and tempos not to be boring.

So - another good band's work? Yes and now. If you're fan of Mogwai, I believe you will be happy with this album. However I am just listener, hungry for all possible new ideas and sounds, I just found regular average safe post-rock album there. And if 15 years ago this sound was innovative and almost revolutionary, during this decade and half it was over- exploited. Myriad of post rock bands all over the world are playing this repetitive calculated combination of twin guitars sound, cool and dreamy atmosphere, some pseudo heavy metal guitar explosions here and there. You can't do it again and again anymore!

Strong average post-rock album without trying to find new lands.

Report this review (#267731)
Posted Wednesday, February 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Five years after I originally wrote this review, I feel inclined to give it the 5 star status that it deserves. It was my first Mogwai album that I owned and it impressed me enough to explore their music more. When I return to this album, I hear it for the beauty, dynamism, variety and originality that it holds. From the loud heaviness of "Batcat" and "The Precipice", the succinct beauty of "King's Meadow" and "Scotland's Shame", the sudden dynamic changes (in contrast to the slow crescendos of the typical post rock song) in "I Love You, I'm Going to Blow Up Your School", the joy and excitement of "The Sun Smells Too Loud" and the typical formula done amazingly right in "I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead" and "Scotland's Shame" with amazing payoffs each time, this is one outstanding album. This, along with "Hardcore..." represents the high standard set by Mogwai (along with the bar set by GY!BE and A Silver Mt. Zion) for all post rock music to progress to. Excellent album that has grown on me even more after all this time.

The remainder of this review consists of my original review:

Other than the occasional Mogwai composition, this is the first album I've owned from the band, so I don't consider myself a Mogwai expert. But I do have to say that I am quite impressed. I love the way Mogwai develops their themes on this album and how they use a lot of variety which at times can be in short supply among some post rock bands. There is a nice mix of beauty and discord on this album, yet it is still very cohesive. After a few listenings, I find the stand out tracks here are the harshness of "Batcat", the sunny, happy feeling of "The Sun Smells too Loud", the minimalistic beauty of "King's Meadow", the use of thematic elements in "Scotland's Shame", the nice development and use of non-traditional post rock instruments in "Thank You Space Expert", and the powerful thematic development and loudness of "The Precipice". There is plenty to appreciate here. At the end of it all, I find myself wanting more, even though the run-time of this album is substantial enough. It's too early to tell if I can consider this a masterpiece because I do need to explore their music more and listen to this more, but I can tell you that I consider it one of the best post/math rock albums I've heard. Time will tell as it always does with the works I consider masterpieces. But I will say this is highly recommended.

Report this review (#282064)
Posted Saturday, May 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars 6/10

"The Hawk Is Howling" finds itself exactly in the middle between straightforwardness and experimentation, with a bit disappointing results.

I wonder if Post-Rock is slowly dying. Are the memorable build ups only going to happen in a metal context from now on? basically, is Post-Rock getting repetitive and less popular, while Post-Metal is getting bigger? Godspeed You! Black Emperor are gone, Sigur Ros are pretty much too, and most of the new "post" something are metal driven. Mogwai are the only big band of the genre that still survives, but the music that they do now is not the one we were used to. It would be a pretty good thing, otherwise there wouldn't be any originality and everything would sound like the early days, but the music I'm hearing, that pretends to be Post-Rock, isn't really so. But despite these complaints, "The Hawk Is Howling" is sort of a nice surprise.

Mogwai with this album start adding synths, more electronics, more of a lot of things that we don't usually hear in an album of this band. But Mogwai always managed to sound differently from one album to another, one of their talents I suppose, that is obviously proven on this latest LP. But many elements that we loved about this band are slowly vanishing, especially the build ups, thus many songs feel like "simple"instrumental rock songs. Eventually with the 2011 release "Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will" the Post-Rock elements will be even more omitted, going more towards a straight forward style. "The Hawk Is Howling" ends up being exactly in the middle of straight-forward, accessible moods, and more experimental ones.

As the album starts off with the first few piano notes of "I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead" you feel like you're going to enjoy the album overall: the rest of the song builds beautifully, reminding of the glory days of the band, and you end up falling in love with such a song, easily the most touching and promising of the album. The second track, the extremely heavy "Batcat" which gets unlike the previous song straight to the point and stays so for the whole five minutes, is not exactly something you would expect from this band, but another nice surprise never hurts. But as the album starts unfolding, the songs get a little more generic, sometimes trippy ("Danphe And The Brain"), sometimes accessible ("The Sun Smells Too Loud"). As the second half starts, you notice that the songs that follow are even more generic, because of their poor delivery and pretty boring feel, especially the last three songs, all of them longer than seven minutes, amplifying their own vagueness.

An album that starts brilliantly, but ends in quite a disappointment, leaving the listener pretty confused and a little underwhelmed, if not even bored. I admit there are a few songs here that I immediately fell in love with, and remain in my heart, and these songs, in my opinion, make this album listenable.

Report this review (#566361)
Posted Friday, November 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Mogwai's return to the musical approach of their early releases on the Zidane documentary soundtrack must have inspired them, because on The Hawk Is Howling they continue to incorporate more of the fragile textures of their early albums back into their music - but accomplish this somewhat more satisfyingly than on the Zidane soundtrack. Could they have been holding their better material back for this album? Possibly, but I can't really blame them - I'd rather have one good album and one mediocre album than two good albums that both suffer from some filler (because in the former case I can just ditch the mediocre album and listen to the better one over and over again). That said, the return to the approach of their early years suggests a lack of fresh ideas, and this certainly lacks the immediacy or clarity of vision of their original groundbreaking work in the field. The hawk may be howling, but the Mogwai are going through the motions.
Report this review (#730648)
Posted Monday, April 16, 2012 | Review Permalink

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