Mogwai
The Hawk Is Howling


3.0
good

Review

by Tyler Fisher EMERITUS
September 24th, 2008 | 61 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Contributing to the monotony of the genre they hate.

Multiple ironies surround Mogwai's latest album, The Hawk Is Howling. First, and more obvious, there is an eagle instead of a hawk on the cover, and it is not “howling.” Do birds ever howl? Second and more importantly, the band who refuse to describe themselves as post rock have made a thoroughly consistent post rock album that follows all the modern trends, and unlike Young Team or Come On Die Young, follows the pack rather than leads. Thus, the band that reinvigorated a genre it hates now follows all the stereotypical faults of that genre, except they do it better than just about everyone else. “I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead” proves this point immediately, a gorgeous opener that grows perfectly, with no jagged ridges in intensity.

When Mogwai releases a new album, everyone tries to relate it back to their previous discography, but six albums in, most have learned that Mogwai quickly forgets their past and forges something new. The difference between Mr. Beast and The Hawk Is Howling may not lay so much in sound but in structure, as Mr. Beast condensed everything into digestable nuggets while The Hawk Is Howling expands upon everything. At the end, the album extends over an hour's length. Tracks like “Scotland's Shame” and “I Love You, I'm Going to Blow Up Your School” brew with quiet intensity and reach their climaxes with surprising restraint, perhaps a trick learned from Come on Die Young. Unlike their previous albums, The Hawk Is Howling does not introduce a new sound to the band, but blends many techniques from their past into one. Electronica leads some songs like “Danphe and the Brain” while “Batcat” recalls the heavier aspects of Mr. Beast.

Unfortunately, the resulting mixture creates an album unfocused rather than well-varied. With some songs reliant on catharsis and others reliant on beauty and tone, the listener has to constantly stay engaged to figure out the music, even if the music is not that engaging (see: “Local Authority”). The variety becomes more confusing when some songs like “Thank You Space Expert” need a climax of some sort have none. For the first time in their career, Mogwai has created an album of songs rather than creating songs that together create an album. For that reason, the songs on The Hawk Is Howling really work better individually than together. “I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead” and “Batcat” are both some of Mogwai's better songs, but placing them back to back is just awkward for the listener. “The Sun Smells Too Loud”, while the freshest song on the album, comes completely out of nowhere, and nothing anywhere near its sound comes later on the album. Despite its newer sound, the song itself is not very good anyway. The Hawk Is Howling has variety of the wrong kind – unfocused and illogical.

Perhaps Mogwai need to reinvent themselves somehow. Their soundtrack for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait sounded uninspired, and now The Hawk Is Howling is just an ambiguous mixture of the band's past. In scientific terms, Mr. Beast is a solution while The Hawk Is Howling is a colloid – a mixture of substances that doesn't actually mix, like vinegar and water. In today's musical culture, simply completing six full length albums is a feat, but the compositional well may be running dry for Mogwai. For now, just listen to the Young Team reissue.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 24th 2008


15743 Comments


I've never been impressed with Mogwai.

there is an eagle instead of a on the cover,


other than that ok review

WarAllTheTime988
September 24th 2008


360 Comments


I need to get this. Most of the time my opinion of Mogwai stuff is completely different than someone elses, so I'm still pumped to hear this. I almost have all their stuff and I still don't have a single release I don't like, although there are some that are stronger than others.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
September 24th 2008


2690 Comments


Featured.
This is an alright album. I agree that the opener is awesome, but after the record fully plays through, it feels very hollow.

robin
Emeritus
September 24th 2008


4259 Comments


this was an alright album. i don't really care for them, but they have a few moving songs ("i know you are but what am i?" is really enjoyable). seems to me there's only so much to be done with their style though, i've never bought the "no vocals ever" thing, which seems like a limiation more than something to boast about.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
September 24th 2008


2806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Mr. Beast has some vocals.

SnackaryBinx
September 24th 2008


2309 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

no vocals works quite a many times. Try imagining GY!BE with vocals.

robin
Emeritus
September 24th 2008


4259 Comments


oh, i didn't say it doesn't work, that'd be silly. :/

P13
September 24th 2008


1327 Comments


F# A# ∞ has spoken word, I thought that counted as vocals.

SnackaryBinx
September 24th 2008


2309 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

you did say it seems to be more like a limitation than anything
else, or maybe I read too much into that statement.

I don't really count spoken passages as lyrics. Spoken-style
vocal delivery, like mewithoutYou, is different though.This Message Edited On 09.24.08

brandtweathers
September 24th 2008


2007 Comments


I've never been impressed with Mogwai.

i agree with that. i tried my darn'dest to like them and boards of canada but both struck me as boring. its like listening to more avant eno rips




br3ad_man
Emeritus
September 24th 2008


2125 Comments


i've never bought the "no vocals ever" thing, which seems like a limiation more than something to boast about.


That comment makes you look pretty ignorant seeing as nearly all of their albums have vocals on at least a couple of songs.

Tyler, I'm not sure I really agree with your review which makes me think I should write one. I agree that it's unfocused but not terribly so. I guess it's mainly the first part of the review that I disagree with. Oh, and the Young Team comment. Such an overrated album.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
September 24th 2008


2806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Go for it.

Wizard
September 24th 2008


19616 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Excellent review, always a pleasure to read Mr. FlawedPerfection. Album is ok but drags a bit too much for my liking. I think I will just stick with the Red Sparowes for my post-rock needs.

Digging: Hans Zimmer - Interstellar

BallsToTheWall
September 24th 2008


44805 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review, good album. i'm sticking to Gregor Samsa who I could have sworn had one written.

Digging: Pink Turns Blue - If Two Worlds Kiss

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 24th 2008


15743 Comments


lost in the crash.

also gregor samsa aren't that great

Skyler
September 24th 2008


1084 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

really mediocre

SnackaryBinx
September 24th 2008


2309 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this mogwai album makes me sad. sigh, they are capable of so much more.

Time
September 24th 2008


81 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i agree with this review, "The Sun Smells Too Loud" and "I'm Jim Morrison" are the only memorable tracks. the rest are just meandering and ultimately boring.

Doppelganger
September 24th 2008


3124 Comments


I only have "Young Team," and the only truly amazing thing on that album is the closer while everything else is just solid. Needless to say, I probably won't go out of my way to get this.

sniper
September 24th 2008


19080 Comments


I only have Mr. Beast and Rock Action, and I really like a few of the songs on those albums, but as a whole I find that most of the songs are fairly boring. I enjoy the style, but it always feels like Mogwai lacks anything to say in their songs. They sort of exist for a while, and then end before they really reach any kind of high point. Explosions in the Sky are much better.



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