Mogwai – Come on Die Young

Mogwai
Come on Die Young

Mogwai’s epic full-length, Come on Die Young, opens with a hollow swell that gives way to Iggy Pop’s familiar voice. He is giving a speech about the nature of punk rock: the proclaimed social disease that sweeps away the hearts and minds of young people everywhere. Mogwai is providing the soundtrack. Their rich, layered guitars whirl cautiously in the background. It’s a fitting reminder to the notion that punk rock is an ideal, one that can be expressed in a number of different ways. Mogwai take the road less traveled: straying away from whiny emo-pop and even farther away from hardcore, buzz-saw guitars and alienated vocals. Mogwai instead eschew punk’s most common means of expression and craft gorgeous, bracing instrumentals that are both quiet and explosive.

The album’s second track, “Cody,” sticks out like a sore thumb: its the only track on the album to contain vocals. The vocals slide eerily over the layered guitar for a haunting sound that is so wonderful and unique it makes me wish that Mogwai would sing more often. Instead, they favor the aforementioned six-string symphonies, occasionally layered with the odd voice, such as adding a football game’s play-by-play to a song (“Helps Both Ways”).

Aside from the occasional spoken-word communication, its hard to describe Mogwai’s epic creations. Delving into the myriad of sonic complexities that each song offers would be ludicrous, as well as ineffective; this music needs to be heard. The gargantuan instrumentals rarely end before the 5-minute mark, nor do they seem too long or boring. “Year 2000 Non-Compliant Cardia” opens with a chime and builds from there. “May Nothing but Happiness Come through Your Door” rides several swells of percussion, rising and then falling again. “Kappa” makes ringing guitars sound like warning sirens and its creepy, and the song’s hollow tapping noises sound like a demon knocking at your window on a lonely night. The album’s most glorious moment, “Ex-Cowboy,” takes 8-plus minutes to rise to a My Bloody Valentine-ish swell that is both beautiful and terrifying.

And those are just mere hints of all the treasures lie deep inside this album. The songs buzz and grind and sway and morph their way deep into your mind. Could an album this grand, this glorious, this polished possibly be considered punk? Mogwai think so. They deal with punk on a deeper, more artistic scale, and they find themselves in lofty company. This isn’t the end times that Godspeed You Black Emperor predicts, the minimalist glory of the For Carnation, or the raging pool of sound that resonates around My Bloody Valentine. Instead, it swirls and morphs and becomes everything in-between.