In some ways it’s a shame the Pixies (godlike geniuses though they were) pinched the title loudQUIETloud because you could argue it fitted Mogwai even better, or maybe Mogwai should have used quietLOUDLOUDLOUDquiet. Via far hipper friends I got into Mogwai around the time of their first LP. I just loved the fact they were, a few spoken snippets aside, an instrumental band, it gave you as a listener less to clutch on to and I especially loved the way in which tracks which started off as the most gentle of reveries would just explode into pure sheets of guitar noise, stay there into and through the pain barrier and then subside. Live I hear they were a genuinely frightening prospect, the riffs were just evilly loud and audiences found they spent a lot of the time during the quiet songs, tense, just waiting, bracing myself for the glorious assault and the release that came with it.
Mogwai EP, which I rushed out and bought the morning it came out in October 1999 was a bit of a departure though; a departure in the sense that it was their last release for the Chemikal underground label, their last release I fully rate and hey, the 4 songs started quiet and then stayed the same way – revolutionary! I also love the cover art, a moody photograph of a water tower glimpsed from a passing train, it just fitted perfectly. Although for convenience sake I could have done without the different sides of the record being at different speeds, I love this record, it’s such a confident release charting a band absolutely on top of their game.
Due to a taping accident when I got home I always listen to EP side 2 first ‘Burn Girl Prom Queen’ and ‘Rage:man’ were first up. The former is a gorgeously melancholy track with subdued, beautiful playing throughout and the use of brass instruments to further that mood is just masterful; for my money it runs ‘R U Still in 2 it’ close for their most emotional track. ‘Rage:man’ adds some extra gentle guitar picking to the mix, before the usual churning explosion of LOUD occurs, but is contained underneath the melody, which continues unabated over the top, leading you though it unscathed – like watching a battle from a nearby hill. ‘Stanley Kubrick’ was always going to be a great choice for a title, but it turns out it’s another great tune, lyrical, melodic and sad again there’s a distinct point about half way through where you sense that Mogwai turn away from cranking up the volume they would have in earlier releases – you can almost feel the restraint crackling in the speakers. ‘Christmas song’ is another gentle highlight which would not sound out of place on a Fleet Foxes LP, honest.
I know Mogwai’s later works have their champions and they do have some great bits, but even though I did buy some of them, this is where I said goodbye, emotionally at least – I think I let go of the ride at the top of its arc though.