Mogwai – Special Moves Mogwai – Special Moves

Mogwai - Special Moves

How do you go about capturing the Mogwai experience? How could you encapsulate in a commercial CD all the highs, lows and in-betweens in the sound woven by the fathers of modern day instrumental guitar music? A band whose live show one Pinpoint reviewer described as, “…One of the last pure rock experiences available; music you can feel permeate through your body.” perhaps the most honest answer is that it isn’t quite possible. However, as a long time Mogwai fan and someone who has witnessed the live show first hand, I can honestly say that Special Moves is probably the best that we as fans are ever likely to get. And that’s saying a lot.

It’s professional. Mogwai have been very clever with Special Moves. This isn’t the Mr. Beast concert or the Young Team show, present in this live CD they take at least one but not more than two tracks from each of their six studio albums. It works very well, not only showcasing older material and giving Rock Action a look in but also managing to prop up 2008’s unfortunate The Hawk Is Howling material; addressing my main concern that this live package would consist mainly of their most recent and weakest album. As such Special Moves serves several purposes- It not only acts as a neat retrospective look back at the bands career thus far, but also provides an accessible entry point for the more casual fan, spanning as it does the Scottish post rockers considerable back catalogue. The contrast of the bands’ characteristic soaring highs and aching lows is kept finely balanced throughout. Just as “Friend Of The Night” reaches its grand end, the familiar vocoder vocals on “Hunted By A Freak” take over, signaling the concerts’ ascent proper.

Even for the faithful fans there’s something to be had here. Special Moves succeeds also by reminding us of numbers that we may have overlooked or since forgotten. “Mogwai Fear Satan”, whilst impressive on record, never reaches the dizzying highs that it does here. At 12 minutes long it goes up against “Like Herod” for the epic factor, but where the latter goes for direct aural assault, the former truly relies on the band as a whole for atmosphere; O’hare’s marching drum beat keeping it all together whilst Stuart Braithwaite’s skittering guitar fork rattles along, drenched in delay. And whilst the bass playing of Dominic Aitchison is sometimes criticised for taking over a Mogwai show, here he gets it just right. It’s epic when it needs to be, and soft when the moment requires it. Around 6.00 into “Mogwai Fear Satan” is among the most beautiful moments on this album.

But it wouldn’t be Mogwai without the loud. The closing of Special Moves goes straight for the jugular; “Like Herod” is ferocious, but once “Glasgow Megasnake” kicks in, all hell really breaks loose. Already a fantastic song and what I considered to be one of their more underrated numbers, Mr. Beast ‘s frontrunner finally gets the live treatment, and it utterly slays. Every detail is audible, the wailing guitar harmonics sounding just like the fictional beast should. The cacophony finally cuts out and all that remains is applause.

Mogwai - Special Moves, reviewed by Lemon on 2010-12-21T10:04:26-08:00 rating 4.2 out of 5

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