The Bowery Presents

Mogwai play Atomic


Sun, January 29, 2017

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Town Hall

New York, NY

$39.50, $35, $29.50

This event is all ages

Mogwai's sixth full-length CD The Hawk Is Howling contains all the extremity and dynamics you know and love, but with a more curious array of rhythms and melodies, hinting a bit more than previous records at both their electronic and metal influences. Additionally, with only two songs under the five-minute mark, this is maybe their most "cinematic"-sounding record to date (which is saying something).

And this testimony from famed crime writer & Mogwai freak Ian Rankin:

You shouldn’t be reading this. It’s completely redundant. There are no lyrics on this album, so all the potency, texture and variation of moods come from instruments alone. Mogwai paint pictures in sound; no words needed.

This makes them hellish hard to write about. Everything is in the ear of the beholder: I may hear sadness where you hear laughter. If writing about music really is akin to dancing about architecture, how can anyone hope to write about Mogwai? Which is why you shouldn’t be reading. It’s also why I shouldn’t be writing the text I’ve just told you not to bother reading. I pen hundreds of thousands of words each year, and sometimes feel I’m contributing to an ongoing problem. There are too many words in the world. We are bombarded by them. We pass by street-signs as we read our latest phone-texts, on our way to the shops with their proliferation of labels and adverts. Words scroll across our TV screens. They fill our style mags and free newspapers. They are plastered across our buses and phone-boxes. But words can lie and, hell, even at their best they lack precision. It would take screeds of them to begin to unpack any one track on this album - a track such as the opener, ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’. Despite the irreverent title (and Mogwai love an intriguing title, especially one that hoodwinks the listener), this is a poignant tune, but it is the calm before the storm of ‘Batcat’, a ferocious and heartfelt thrash that harks back to the early ‘gonzo’ Mogwai of albums such as ‘Ten Rapid’ and ‘Young Team’.

Glasgow remains the band’s hunting ground, providing a source of continuing inspiration - the sounds of urban fracture, of desperate nights, fights and high-rise love affairs. Romance is fleeting but palpable in a track such as ‘Local Authority’ (see what I mean about Mogwai and their song-titles?), while ‘Scotland’s Shame’ seems to me one of the group’s most personal songs.

‘The Sun Smells Too Loud’ sounds the sort of phrase a pal might utter after too much summertime cider. But it could also be a nod towards synaesthesia, which would only be fitting, as Mogwai’s music does conjure up colours, emotions and pictures. This is one of the most upbeat tracks on what is predominantly a chilled album - rizlas and cheap hooch in the park, and worlds waiting to be conquered tomorrow. ‘King’s Meadow’ continues the mood, taking us out of the park, homeward bound: music for day’s end. ‘I Love You, I’m Going to Blow Up Your School’ (with its titular nod towards cult film ‘Heathers’) adds an undercurrent of continuous menace which finally explodes six minutes in, its drama heightened by the protracted build-up. ‘Thank You, Space Expert’ meantime is the closest thing on the album to a twenty-first century lament. Maybe I’ve been at the cheap cider myself, but its melody seems to me to lend itself to massed bagpipes - and isn’t that something to contemplate? Then again, maybe it’s just me.
(Are you still reading…?)

And so we come to the final song in this elegant and elegiac hour-long set… and it’s a barnstormer, a guitar-heavy pelter that leads the listener, step by cautious step, towards the precipice of its title. But when we step off, do we end up tombstoning or do we soar and howl like the hawk? That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself. All I know is, eleven years in Mogwai still sound like the future, their five-strong core membership still the coolest gang in town.
I’m about to stop writing. You’re about stop reading. We’re going to listen instead.
Venue Information:
Town Hall
123 West 43rd Street
New York, NY, 10036