Review Summary: Still one of the very best records in post rock.
I don’t give a s
hit what you think. Young Team is your best album. Period. Your refusal to acknowledge this obvious fact, whether due to false modesty, self-critical incompetence, or simple stupidity, has left me with no other option but to write a letter of complaint. Well, not complaint exactly. I am going to prove to you that this is your best album. I am going to show you the shocking size of the dent you left in the genre of post rock. The genre you, for whatever reason, are so keen to deny yourselves a part of. Not only has this album left a gaping hole in the genre which so many others have tried to fill, but it has also left a significant mark on myself. Never before has an album been able to draw so much passion, so much human feeling from the listener while still managing to retain such an inhuman sense of detachment and composure. Festering deep beneath the many layers of Young Team is a frenzied core of emotion, one which claws frantically at the fragile walls of its entrapment in a desperate bid to escape. It bites, kicks, scratches and shoves the barricade so furiously that it can practically taste the air outside. But it never manages to achieve its goal, and the result is this: a masterpiece of modern music, a landmark in instrumental rock, and an eternally valuable lesson in how to create deeply, achingly moving music without losing focus, fluency, or face. Jesus guys…
Now let’s talk about Scotland for a second, maybe we can find something to agree on. It’s a wonderful country, no doubt. Full of gorgeous scenery, fascinating history and vigorous individuality. I’m sure you must have taken a lot of inspiration for your music from the magic of your homeland. Well, the diversity of your country’s character is certainly mirrored in your debut album. Each of the tracks on Young Team showcase a different trait, a special quality which make them stand apart from the other songs on the album. Yet they mutually possess a certain peculiarity which enables them to work together as a cohesive unit. Listening to the album from one side to the other gives the sort of satisfaction you get from lazy mornings spent hazily slipping in and out of dreams. Each adventure introduces new and exciting possibilities but they’re all experienced from the staid familiarity of your bed. The menacingly dark, but skull-splittingly violent power of “Like Herod” creates a strange cacophony when following the blissful, head-in-the-clouds rock of the album’s opener “Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home”. However, this inharmonious juxtaposition actually adds to the album’s unity rather than knock it out of its stride, thanks to the strong theme of emotion which anchors them together. They may evoke opposing feelings, but their placement, fury after felicity, empowers the listener and gives the album a humanistic, journey type feel which needs the involvement of the listener to be successful. The struggles and elations of our everyday lives are mirrored in the music allowing for a much deeper connection between audience and you, the artist.
‘This music can put a human being in a trance like state and deprive it for the sneaking feeling of existing.’ I couldn’t have said it better myself. You wrote this as an introduction to the record, and it is the strongest explanation for Young Team’s mysterious allure, it’s paradoxically human detachment. There is no explanation for how you do it, that is the magic of the record, and only you yourselves know (or perhaps you don’t). But for why the music is so engrossing, yes, this is music to get lost in, music which, if given the right attention, will lock your subconscious in a state of suspended animation. Take ‘Tracy’, one of the most beautiful pieces of music in the entire field of post rock. Such a simple song, no reliance on any quiet/loud formula, no special post rock tricks up it’s sleeve. Just simple ambience with a little xylophone melody played over the top, infrequent drumming and a guitar or two ambling in the background. The song ends with Martin on the phone to a guy called Colin explaining that Stuart and Dominic have had an argument which ended with fists. Nothing out of the ordinary on paper, but there is this hollow type of magic which invades the song itself and plants seeds from which a serene beauty grows. ‘R U Still In 2 It?’ also contains this almost paranormal quality. Another quiet track, the vocals and lyrics are the centrepiece for a song which wrenches at the throat of solemnity with its quivering guitar melody, barren drumming and achingly real lyrics, it is the one song which does feel human, yet extraordinarily so.
‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ though. Seriously. Come on guys. Gimme a break, you close your debut fuc
king album with one of the best songs to come out of the genre and you think it’s a load of crap? A song which causes tears to swell the instant the first few notes judder over the eardrum? A song with a flute section so devastatingly gorgeous that the instrument itself should be kept in a high security, quarantined establishment and only be played when the rapture comes around in the hope of proving to God that this world contains far too much beauty to be destroyed? With a riff so simple, but so damn inspiring that I’m seriously considering topping myself just so that I can have it played at my funeral? Seriously, f
uck off. F
uck right off. I mean, I have actually seen my stereo sweating, I kid you not, this song actually perspirates under the pressure of it’s own intensity. So simple, but so, so incredibly wonderful, with such a perfect balance of intensity and tranquillity, if you cannot agree that this is your best song, as a closer to your best album, then I’m sorry but we just can’t be friends.
Obviously the album’s not perfect, I know. It was your first attempt, mistakes are going to be made. ‘With Portfolio’ has an ending so aggravating it could probably be used as a new type of harmless torture to extract information from terrorists. ‘Summer (Priority Version)’ just seems to lack the special magic that pervades almost every other track. It’s a decent track which follows the tried-and-tested quiet/loud formula, but nothing about it makes it stand out, there’s no unique quality and it just seems to be there to buffer the tracklist. But hey, who cares, there is no perfect record and there never will be. What we do have though, and what we should appreciate, is records which can move people, even change people thanks to their momentous ability to dig deep inside the listener and bring to the surface the very deepest emotions lodged all the way at the back of the soul with the spiders and cobwebs. Records which challenge the way we look at music, the way we look at ourselves and force us to ask ourselves questions we may not know the answers to. Records which are both beautiful but ugly, dark but inspirational, emotive but inhuman. Young Team is one of these records. “If someone said that Mogwai are the stars, I would not object.” Neither should you.
Matt Wolfe, avid Mogwai fan and Young Team worshipper
P.S. What the f
uck is up with the ending of ‘Yes!’ when played backwards? That’s f
ucked up dude.