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Mogwai - Rock Action CD (album) cover

ROCK ACTION

Mogwai

Post Rock/Math rock


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5 stars MOGWAI's watershed disc. No one but no one should have a problem with anything here. Their third release, the ironically titled "Rock Action" is by no means a hard rock disc. MOGWAI goes in a new direction after two LPs and a dozen EPS. They bring in banjo, electronics, keyboards, and lots of texture. Every song is good, but three stand out as positive prog classics: "Sine Wave," "You Don't Know Jesus," and "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong." There's a nice pun in the song "Dial: Revenge." Sung in Stuart's native tongue of Welsh, the word "dial" is the word for "revenge." There's a nice short noise experiment in "O I Sleep," and a lament in "Take Me Somewhere Nice." Finishing the album perfectly is the piano driven "Perfect Pint." This is really a perfect album, and at a terse 38 minutes keeps you wanting more and coming back. A Prog Classic and recommended to everyone. If you only pick up one MOGWAI album, get this one.
Report this review (#35032)
Posted Saturday, May 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Rock Action is an improvement in song writing and overall sound from Mogwai's previous release. While not the most incredible release, Rock Action shows a lot of potential for these Scottish lads. Sine Wave could easily have been a remix of "A Warm Place" by Nine Inch Nails but it holds on it's own as one of Mogwai's best tracks on this release. The biggest difference on this album is the length. While previously their releases would reach the hour mark, this one just falls short of fourty minutes. But this is only a small complaint for what is really a very solid album.
Report this review (#39238)
Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Let's face it. When Mogwai's 'Young Team' came out, that was it. The final word on the 'quiet/loud moody instrumental indie rock' sound. They had done it. What does a band do then? Where do they take their music? While they were trying to figure that out, Godspeed You Black Emperor stepped in and took Mogwai's sound in a new direction, stretched it out, turnd it into eerie soundtracks and haunting ambience. But for Mogwai, barring some miracle, there was no place to go but down. And down they went. "Come On Die Young' seemed like a half assed attempt at a new direction. And unfortunately the 'new direction' they chose wasn't all that new. A kind of wishy washy, un-dynamic generic slow-core indie rock. So when we heard the new Mogwai, we were ready to write it off, and we sort of did. It was slow, listless, and not at all like 'Young Team' which I think we had all been secretly hoping it would be.

But once we got over all our non-musical issues, and actually sat down and listened to it. Close, we were singing a different tune. It definitely doesn't sound all that much like Mogwai. And it actually does sound quite a bit like Godspeed (or what I imagined a Godspeed cover band started by the guys in Mogwai and the guys in Teenage Fanclub might sound like) but that's not a bad thing. Much in the way that Godspeed took the Mogwai sound and made it their own, it seems like this time around it's Mogwai's turn to say 'yeah? well watch this' and take their twisted sound back, and twist it even more, into a tranquil and dreamy, beautifully lush and absolutely epic album. A record you can sink right into. Glistening shifting guitar layers and textures, skittery and lazy rhythms, dramatic minor key swells all accompanied by drowsy vocals. A lot more vocals than we expected, but dang if they aren't nice. And it feels like beneath all this grandeur and epic sound, there are actually little hidden nuggets of catchy pop, just obscured enough to keep it interesting.

On their last release it was the horrendous cover art that didn't fit the music, this time it's the title itself that's the culprit (Rock action? Hardly). Ah, but we know those Scottish lads to be a mass of contradictions. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic record. Mesmerizingly beautiful and totally essential.

Report this review (#44804)
Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I must confess that I'm quite new to the whole "post-rock" thing, but Godspeed You Black Emperor! records I was lucky enough to become familiar with made me stunned, to say the least. I've never in my life heard the music so monotonous, repetive and minimalist that can be so fascinating, addicting, atmospheric, and emotional at the same time. It inspired me to dig further...

Occasional Mogwai songs I was listening to on the alternative radio some time ago were really promising. This particular album seemed to be a very good starting point (being quite short, not expensive and with many positive reviews), so I finally decided to acquire a copy. At a first listen I wasn't very impressed by what I heard, but subsequent listenings quickly revealed all beauty of this album to me.

The album starts with 'Sine Wave'. The songs was build on very simple themes played on organ, piano and multiple guitars that provide background for wave of very agressive industrial noise and drumming which seem to be carrying the composition's main motif. This noise gets more and more intense, expressing the emotional coldness, reaching the point that is leaving the listener completely devasted, and then it until it starts fading away. The three compositions that follow the song are definitely calmer, even if extremely moody, being a sort of rest after such "welcome". All are songs in the strict sense, that are very rare for Mogwai. "Dial/Revenge" is especially effective with great acoustic guitar parts and vocals in Welsh sung by Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals). Yet all still hold a strange feeling of unease that captures the listener. "You Don't Know Jesus" (I don't know why but I like this title really!) is the only track here closer to "traditional" post-rock (in GSBE! sense). It progresses from a slow, simple guitar melody to a powerful climax. "2 Rights Make One Wrong" is very similar for its first four minutes but then the atmosphere changes radically, as the band starts experimenting with treated banjo, horns, distorted vocals and electronic percussion. To great effect! After all this insanity "Secret Pint" is "just" a beautiful piano based ballad with some acoustic guitar and "vinyl" hissings in the background, closing the album gracefully.

I have one complaint however: I think the album is slightly over-produced. Sure, many of these electronic touches really add something valueable to music, but I don't think it's necessery in every composition (especially in "You Don't Know Jesus" around second minute, if you have a weaker audio set it can get a bit messy).

Overally, a great record. Highly recommended to fans of 70's progressive rock looking for something ambitious, original and at times challenging.

Report this review (#58061)
Posted Saturday, November 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!!!

Yet another post rock group, taking inspiration on the groundbreaking Tortoise and Constellation label GYBE! and DMST, Mogwai is just content on this release to follow suit in a poker game and not bring anything new or daring. Rather oddly though, there are sung songs in a rather off-voice that never seem to rise to the occasion of upping the ante for superior interest of the game. There are moments that are on the brink of ecstasy such as the fifth track You Don't Know Jesus (nothing that GYBE! has not achieved a few years before, though) and the tension is maintained for a few minutes to almost unbearable levels, but alas orgasm do not come. Vocals in the form of Nirvana's Cobain screams of despair or Water's yells in Careful With That Axe, would've achieved that poker hand they should've dared for!!! A huge opportunity wasted. The added banjo on the second last track is worthy of note and worth a smirk too!

Most likely by the end of the night and by not taking any risks, Mogwai will certainly not come up on the losing end of the scale, but they will not astound or blind you with their rather pale brilliance. Interesting but simply getting lost in the mass of post-rock albums. Certainly worth a spin if you enjoy post-rock but not a royal flush or even a full house!

Report this review (#60297)
Posted Wednesday, December 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
Jimbo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I have intentionally avoided reviewing post-rock albums so far, because while most bands do have their own signature sound, there are also many striking similarities between the bands, so one usually ends up saying the same things for every album. I'll try to avoid that, if possible.

Well, first of all, Mogwai is one of the most depressing bands I've ever heard, and I mean it too. The atmospheres and textures are simply so somber and dark, that at times they even challenge Univers Zero. Fortunately for me, I'm rather mentally sane, so this album doesn't affect me too much. For those wanting to get more familiar with this genre, Mogwai is a good choice, as they mostly concentrate on shorter, structurally pretty simple, melody-based tracks, and yet they often manage to have the same "epic" feel that bands like GY!BE are so well known for.

The second track Take Me Somewhere Nice is a brilliant example of that. It starts with a slow, dark, but still very catchy guitar riff, but before too long other instruments enter the track as well. The riff is actually repeated over and over again during the song, but it's the gloomy keyboards and the amazing string arrangements that really carry this song forward. There's just so much depth in there, that I usually end up in a hypnotic state. Especially in this song, there's a strong resemblance to movie soundtrack music. At this point, things were looking rather good.

However, while I still thoroughly enjoy Dial: Revenge, it's You Don't Know Jesus where things start to go wrong. This instrumental track is actually not half bad at first, but it carries one of the fundamental flaws of this genre - it's way too long. It's also such a typical post-rock track, trying to build up a huge climax, but it's just so predictable that it quite frankly annoys me. It gets old pretty fast. The vocals on this album are mostly fine, but a bit too melodramatic for my taste...

Rock Action is in a way a perfect example of the genre. It manages to combine all the good and not-so-good things about post-rock. It is by all means emotionally moving, very atmospheric, mostly quite intense experience, and yet at the same time, too predictable and just a tiny bit self-indulgent.

All things considered, this is pretty good stuff, nothing exceptional, but fans of the genre will be pleased. If you're not a fan (yet?), you're probably better off starting with Happy Songs For Happy People.

Report this review (#74182)
Posted Wednesday, April 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
Philo
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is an odd album, it's seriously eclectic and umbrellas all the tags, genres whatever that one can put on the Scottish outfit. It's actually quite a miserable album, but certainly the misery gets so mierable that it becomes comfortable, comfortable while locked into its own world, a world layered with a host of instruments becoming intense all the while, and while there is a barage of instrumentation it is that of the sweet toned guitar which always shines through for me. It's a slow builder. Rock Action sounds better to me now then it did five years ago, back then I craved an urgency, an aggression in music. I liked the concept of Mogwai but felt a million miles from the emotion they conveyed. I just didn't want it. Now? Well I've grown into the band, through constant plays and patience. The structures are incredible, rich and volumous. The subtle vocals which accompanied some of the parts were, to me, in perfect harmony with the tone and mood the band create. Sometimes, with some similar contemporary rock music acts of today, there can be a tendency to overstress and be too literal (and plain dumb) with regard vocal parts, words, lyrics. Here the lyrics creep in and become the very perfect and sympathetic line to merge with the sound, just to finish if off. Just like with "Take Me Somewhere Nice" and "Dial: Revenge". But then Mogwai and their like are just that much more orchestral, creative and thoughtful than a wave of a million other indie rock bands. Mogwai probably are spun from the one time indie circus but have progressed beyond that border, thankfully. Post rock? Lets forget that term, it's futile. Moving along then. Mogwai get as gritty as they can here with "You Don't Know Jesus" and while not as blistering violent as anything on the Young Team debut it is that bit more enjoyable. Less forced but nevertheless forceful, better even. It's as near to rock action as Mogwai get here, "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong" is decent too in the guitar department, in fact every department. This album is a real grower. Having "Sine Wave" as the album opener had put me off for a long while, but once the album gets going it does truly take off, it can veer toward the avant garde noise a little ("Robot Chant" etc) but that never gets in the way of the albums strength, because when Rock Action is good it's very good.
Report this review (#92256)
Posted Wednesday, September 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Nah, they even try to sing (guest appearences). This adds nothing honestly.

This is rather a EP – 38 minutes long, with usual guitar-driven mellow tracks (“Take me somewhere nice”, “2 rights make 1 wrong”, “You don’t know Jesus”), interludes (“O I Sleep” etc) and even a true song sung on an unknown (to me) language (“Dial:Revenge”) – pretty nice one I must admit. But most of the time I felt bored more as ever. I presume MOGWAI are just not my cup of tea in Post-Rock (since I enjoy the genre very much), like RUSH in Prog or RADIOHEAD in Modern Rock. No hate or anything of that kind (I even like some tracks from above-mentioned bands), but they just didn’t click on me THAT much as they do with others.

Report this review (#123240)
Posted Thursday, May 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Rock Action is the third studio album from experimental rock act Mogwai. I haven´t been really satisfied by their first two album Young Team (1997) and Come on Die Young (1999) even though they are both high quality products. I was just never moved by the music and as a consequence the repetitive and mostly intrumental post rock style on the two first albums felt long drawn and a bit dull to me. I´m told that Rock Action is Mogwai´s most accessible album, and judging from the three first albums from the band I can say yes to that statement. It´s also the most exciting release out of the first three IMO.

The music is still build around very few ideas and riffs and overall the songs are very repetitive. This time around the songs are not as stripped down as it was the case on the previous album Come on Die Young though. Mogwai have added keyboards and about half of the songs have mellow vocals which really helps make the album more varied and accessible. At least that´s how I feel about it. The album is only 38:28 minutes long which is also a good idea IMO. I´m not sure this kind of music could entertain me for 70 minutes without boring me at some point. One of the things that I also enjoy about Rock Action is the multilayered soundscape in some songs. Almost symphonic at times. I´ve been a bit annoyed of the sparse use of vocals on the two previous albums, but my favorites on Rock Action are actually the two mostly instrumental songs You Don´t Know Jesus and 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong. I also enjoy the beautiful Dial: Revenge and the dark and haunting Secret Pint while my least favorite is probably Take Me Somewhere Nice. The album is best understood if you listen to it in succesion IMO and not just pick out individual tracks. There´s something really positive about the feeling I get after each listen that is really great. The hardcore post rock fans might find this one a bit too accessible but for me who is not used to listening to the genre that´s the beauty of the album.

The musicianship is excellent and I really think Mogway has grown considerably as composers since Come on Die young.

The production is very pleasant. Warm but still sharp when the music needs it.

It´s an album that has grown on me, so if I had chosen to review it after only a few listens I would have given it 3 stars. After many listens I began to feel moved by the music and it´s as if the addition of keyboards, and the more varied expression in the music because of the added vocals, really makes for a good listen and an excellent album. It might be a small 4 star rating but a 4 star rating it is. I hope this positive development in Mogwai´s music continues on their later albums. I´ll be looking forward to listening to and reviewing them now and that was not the feeling I had after listening to Come on Die Young.

Report this review (#196067)
Posted Monday, December 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Third album of this Scottish post-rock band is something between atmospheric sound of Nordic post-rock bands, and almost metal energy of their US colleagues. More melodic, more acoustic, with warmer sound. Sad, in moments even dark, but according to genre rules - repetitive and not too complex.

Mogwai sometimes is mentioned as post-rock one of greatest band's, I can't understand why. They really have their own niche between other post-rock bands, with more melodic, more mellow and warmer sound, but the difference is not so big to see them in front of all genre.

There on this album they are adding some vocals to their mostly instrumental music, what makes the music a bit more different. Possibly, they stepped far from post-rock standard there, but the destination is Brit-pop, so the question is how good is this trend.

In all, some positive side of this work is it is a bit different from usual post-rock album. But this difference is far not enough to make it great album. Should be attractive for genre fans though.

Report this review (#266160)
Posted Sunday, February 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Mogwai must have realised they'd taken their predominantly instrumental and extremely sparse sound as far as it could go on Come On Die Young, because Rock Action sees them refreshing and evolving their sound extensively. The compositions presented are much more lush and musically embellished, vocals play a more prominent role, and the reliance on sampled dialogue to establish atmosphere is greatly diminished. The end result is an album which is unmistakably Mogwai but at the same time establishes an entirely new phase in their sound. Post-rock fans who were turned off by earlier Mogwai works but think they might enjoy a less sparse version of the Mogwai sound could enjoy themselves here.
Report this review (#643433)
Posted Thursday, March 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
Kempokid
COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
2 stars Since I'm quite a big fan of post rock in general, I was quite interested in listening to Mogwai, given that they are one of the bigger bands in the genre, so I thought I'd be getting some really interesting, powerful songs here. What I find this album to be instead is quite dull, dreary and overall underwhelming. The big issue I have with it is that it is somewhere between the two main kinds of post rock I'm familiar with, the dreamy, beautiful soudscapes of bands like Sigur Ros, and the building, thunderous crescendos of GY!BE and This Will Destroy You, instead causing it to feel uneventful without being beautiful enough to make it interesting in that fashion. This is the first album I've heard by the band, but I have been attentively listening many times over the last couple of weeks to gain a decent understanding in order to review this fairly.

The first big issue I have with the album is actually the vocals, not the vocalist, who sounds fine, but the existence of the vocals themselves. I find that it does cause the songs to sound more dull and less expressive, which while parts of the album have some wonderfully intense backing instrumentals, the majority of the attention is drawn towards the quiet, monotone, dreary vocals, removing a lot of the emotional power that good post rock contains, instead making it sound more like an indie rock track. Another problem is the fact that some of these songs really don't do enough, taking the sound of the crescendo based post rock bands without actually crescendoing, leading to some noticeable blandness in certain tracks, especially the 9 minute Two Rights Make One Wrong. One final issue, although a less egregious one is the interludes, which both add very little to the album, but don't detract too much either.

Despite these complaints, there are definitely still some positives to this album. For one, it can really capture a mood, as this album manages to be really depressing in ways that don't feel overdramatic or false, everything here does manage to convey a feeling of emptiness quite well, it's just that the music can sometimes suffer because of this. Despite the album being filled with tracks that other than general tone, I really don';t care about, the first 2proper songs are exceptional, and the 3rd is interesting in a particular way. Sine Wave shows a lot of promise, nicely balancing some electronic elements with a gradual increase in intensity, making for a standard, yet no less awesome post rock track that hits all the right notes for me. Take Me Somewhere Nice is however undoubtedly the highlight of this album for me, being deeply melancholic, each note hitting hard emotionally as it slowly flows through its 7 minute run time, being utterly beautiful the entire way through. Dial : Revenge, while not necessarily a song I enjoy all that much, is interesting for how close to a Damon Albarn song it sounds, with the vocals sounding incredibly similar, albeit in another language.

Overall, I feel quite disappointed in this album, finding it to lack many of the qualities in which I find to make post rock great, while adding nothing particularly special to the mix, leading to a mostly safe album that doesn't quite hit many mark. I'm going to check the previous 2 albums by the band to see if anything is different with those, as there are some hints of greatness mixed amongst the boredom, but it's jst not quite enough for me to enjoy this album once those first 2 great tracks have finished. Overall, I'd recommend many post rock albums before touching this one, such as the first 2 GY!BE albums, Agaetis Byrjun by Sigur Ros, and even some Magyar Posse for a very similar sound in certain respects, while also reaching much greater heights.

Best songs: Sine Wave, Take Me Somewhere Nice

Weakest songs: Secret Pint, You Don'T Know Jesus, Two Rights Make One Wrong

Verdict: I just find the majority of this album very bland and uninventive, but also do admit that they are excellent at capturing a particular mood, it's just a shame that they don't explore that more, and meander quite a lot.

Report this review (#2168837)
Posted Tuesday, March 26, 2019 | Review Permalink

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