Mogwai's problem is they're one of those "ultimate" bands. They wedged that bar pretty damn high, and we all expect a little more from them. We expect them to break our minds and blow our hearts, because we know they can. So why doesn't Mr Beast stick in the memory?
Much of Mr Beast is "classic" Mogwai - tension builds through a sediment of dense, fraught melody, quiet passages trip in and out of loud crescendoes and... nope, that's it. One minute the pensive tides and low, understated vocals of 'Acid Food' are lulling you into a semi-conscious state. Then you're woken by 'I Chose Horses'' quiet, penultimate triumph, a sedate Japanese spoken monologue reflecting softly off guitars that twinkle like droplets of winter condensation on a cold window. All you can remember of what preceded it are 'Acid Food''s splintery beats and organic, countrified twangs. Where did twenty minutes go?
Essentially, it feels like Mogwai put the first three songs together, then changed their minds. Initially it's varied, subtly different from what one has come to expect from Mogwai, but still essentially them. It's not entirely successful, but it's memorable and interesting, and suggests that Mogwai have new ideas they want to pursue. Yet, inexplicably, almost all of the rest falls back into an attractive but unambitious re-enactment of Mogwai's output to date.
'We're No Here' thunders with the kind of interrogative heaviness that Mogwai practically invented, subsequently refined and intensified by the likes of Isis. Mogwai are still arguably the best at this sort of thing, and those who witness this song live will have their ears blasted inside out by it. Yet its position as final song leaves it more like a book-end than a climax, given the lovely but aimless cluster that leads up to it - 'Travel Is Dangerous', typically, replays the throbbing melodies that characterise the Mogwai we know, overlaid with vocals that hum and vibrate against molten guitars. It's beautiful but indifferent, and after it vacates your ears, not a trace lingers. It's as if it was never there. Mr Beast feels like two records - the one they know how to make, and the unfinished sketches of the one they were going to make before they lost their nerve.
Is it worth spending bucks on? Yes. It is. If you like Mogwai for the sounds they make, for their instrumental dynamic and ebbing/flowing moodiness, you'll probably like Mr Beast - there's certainly little to object to. But if you love Mogwai, if the merciless impact they inflict catches you by surprise and floods you with physical excitement and a tangle of emotions... if you love them for the way they raise and meet your expectations, perhaps Mr Beast isn't for you.
6Gen Williams's Score