Published Jan 01, 2006Mogwai aren't the band they used to be. At least not entirely. Fresh out of Dave Fridmann's studio near Buffalo, NY, they have unleashed their third album, which takes their music in new directions. Gone are the crashing, heavy metal jams, the Slint-esque ascensions from quiet to loud, the length. Rock Action, misleadingly named after the band's own label, shows signs of evolution.
When giving Rock Action a listen, the first thought that will come to your mind is, "Where's the rest of it?" The album clocks in at 38 minutes, almost half of each of their other two albums. To the band, however, this change wasn't such a big decision. Says Stuart Braithwaite, guitarist and mouthpiece, "Basically me and Dominic decided in advance to make a short record." Plain and simple.
One of the most anticipated and publicised changes is the band's collaborations. Mogwai recruited David Pajo (Aerial/Papa M, Slint, Tortoise) for some backing vocals, Matt Sweeney (Chavez) on guitar, and Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), on what might be the strangest and most diverse song the band has recorded yet. Sounding like it was made during medieval times, this acoustic number features Gruff singing in his native Welsh. "We were all big fans of [Super Furry Animals'] last album, so I suppose it did have something to do with how we recorded it," explains Braithwaite. "As for the vocals, [Welsh] is Gruff's first language, so we just chose to do it that way."
But the most notable difference isn't the length of the songs or who joined them in the studio; what's clearly missing is the extremes of sound and mood that the band has been acclaimed for. Rock Action has no epic song to make your ears bleed. This album proves the band was never about hiding behind walls of feedback they're just as comfortable using acoustic guitars or banjos. So is this lighter sound a result of the band's musical influences or are Mogwai just nice, sensitive young men? Braithwaite acknowledges the importance of influences but says that the feeling has to be there as well. "I suppose there's always that kind of connection between any music you make and the people that make [other music] but it's hard to directly pen anything of that down without being really pretentious." So do they consider themselves soft? Braithwaite cracks a devilish smile. "We're soft in a violent way."