Errors and F*ck ButtonsEdit this event
You can’t fall faster than terminal velocity (although this is how it feels). There are only a finite number of chords (are you surprised ‘Cody’ has the same as ‘2 Rights’ – but also ‘Whatever’ by Oasis?). You can only produce a finite quantity of endorphins in any given day (no matter what you put into your system to release them). After you’ve seen the most beautiful sunset (says Jean Baudrillard), well, you see another “most beautiful sunset.”
Most metaphors strive towards the capacity of music to affect you, so why work backward, to metaphors (to paraphrase EM Forster)? Is ‘Helicon 1’ the best piece of music ever written? Stuart Braithwaite was once asked this, and for someone who takes fandom seriously, his answer was telling: “Possibly.” Given all of the above, maybe it IS feasible to push music to the limit of its capacity to awe you, and remain operating at that limit, 12 years down the line…
…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First up is **Errors**, one of _Rock Action_’s newer bands. It used to be, I defended Rock Action as a punk rock institution – a way for **Mogwai** to help out so-so local bands, and a reason to sell ‘Summer’ for a commercial. Now, it seems there could be some great records round the corner, if they can just capture the sound. Part Chimp are the heaviest band I’ve ever seen play live (Yes, over the Melvins), but Errors surpass them for promise, and are easily the most danceable on the label. Diehard Mogwai fans will know what I mean when I say their best song makes me nostalgic for ‘Procedure 4’ (so this is what seeing the Gwai in 1997 would have been like!). Otherwise, this is hardcore at the intersection with math-rock; music to make you contort yourself.
Having made a personal Album-of-the-Year, and the record that restored my faith in post-rock – that new directions could still be found – Fuck Buttons have absurdly high expectations to meet. Somehow, it doesn’t work in the Apollo. If you’ve got the album – drum-loops, screams, white-noise, drones – you’ll be pleased to hear the newer material kicks ass; if you want to see them live, though, find a small venue while you still can.
Okay: Mogwai in 2008. For the fence-sitters, and naysayers – Mogwai play 5/10 tracks from _The Hawk Is Howling_ – and all equal or better the rest of the set. Fact. Thing is, I never gave up on Mogwai. (Now, there’s damning with faint praise…!) What I mean is, I never agreed with my more critical friends that Mogwai – and by extension, “post-rock” – had had its day; become formulaic; etc. I argued that _Young Team_ (1997), and _Come on Die Young_ (1999) had blown our minds, in the post-Britpop era – the low-hanging smog of low-ambition indie guitar-pollution had parted, and the universe opened-up, above – just as, for long stretches of _CODY_, so did the abyss, below. Would you demand someone re-invent the wheel, though? Can you blow your mind twice?
Actually, Mogwai have scripted the show brilliantly, to ensure just that. See, the trick is: to take your various effects as far as you can in one direction at a time, so that there can be song-after-song that seems the most ____ or the ___est or the £$&%ing ___est. Specifically, ‘Scotland’s Shame’ drenches the stage in blood-red lighting, and the solid foundation of simple drum- and organ-parts constitute the Cyclopean architecture of the song, through which the guitars howl, as if for eternity. Think ‘Ozymandias’ by PB Shelley. Three from the end, ‘Like Herod’ brings the evil, as it has done for a decade – the volume to full on the guitars themselves, so that you hear a great sinuous metal beast. After the first blast of noise, the improv section has all the terror of Penderecki’s _musique concrete_, but after the second, it’s played as stoner-rock. For (recent single, and last before the _encore_), ‘Batcat’, Mogwai reserve their most skull-splitting playing, with the treble to full – and in the set-closer, ‘2 Rights’, it’s gut-shuddering extreme bass frequencies; the world collapsing. There’s prettiness aplenty though – ‘Cody’ is a reminder that (used sparingly) Stuart’s plaintive voice, and nostalgic themes are powerfully affecting; the delayed guitar might even be preferable to the pedal steel of the album version. One of the new songs basically adds delayed guitar to ‘Christmas Song’, and the visuals show falling snow (as if you needed a prompt!). ‘Helicon 1’ is ‘Helicon 1’ – say no more – and Mogwai? Mogwai are still Mogwai, ten years since I first saw them – a hyperbole unto themselves.
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