The Hawk Is Howling


Album review by Alfonso Barata

For over ten years, Glasgow’s Mogwai have been bearing the torch of the so-called post-rock movement; nowadays, most groups who were once part of it - including bands such as Tortoise or My Bloody Valentine - are all but gone. Yet Mogwai, who seem unaware of or not concerned with the different music styles that come and go, have stuck to their trademark and instantly recognisable sound.

Admittedly, they have somehow mellowed over the years, and gone are the days when Mogwai was mainly playing long noise passages combined with quieter ones, following the constant ‘quiet-loud-quiet-loud’ pattern. Still, they have not renounced this altogether, and in their new album - their sixth - they included ‘Batcat’, which still makes a point about the ability of Mogwai to blast it out loud if they really want to, as though they were forging the doors of hell.

But it is the quieter moments of songs such as ‘Local Authority’, ‘Danphe and the Brain’ or ‘Scotland’s Shame’ where this album achieves its best moments, producing music that I invariably relate to moving images, as if Mogwai were in reality writing music to be listened to whilst watching endless cinematic travelling, creating sonic atmospheres for sleepless nights.

Mogwai have always intrigued me with the titles they choose to their songs, which sometimes are playful, sometimes extravagant or sometimes plain weird; this album is no different and with songs including titles such as ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m dead’ or the brilliant ‘I love you, I’m Going To Blow Up Your School’ there is enough to keep us busy wondering what they really mean, especially since the album is exclusively instrumental.

Amid the familiar tunes, there is also room for the surprise, in the form of a bouncy track, ‘The Sun Smells Too Loud’ (sic), that could actually be played in a commercial radio station without sounding out of place, yet it still manages to retain their characteristic sound.

The Hawk is Howling is not Mogwai’s best album, but it is a decent follow-up to the acclaimed ‘Mr Beast’, one that perhaps will not perhaps bring them newer audiences but satisfy the already large base of fans around the world.
However, if you are curious about Mogwai and would like to give them a go, you should try earlier releases such as ‘Young Team’ or ‘Rock Action’.

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