Mogwai and the Art of Subtle Initiation
There are bands in this world that break molds and push the boundaries of what was previously known in the world of music. It is a rare occasion that these phenomena manage to reach even a small sampling of the general public, so when these genre-definers manage to break that magical threshold, they often fall into a repetition that sees them reproducing their once-original sounds over and over again. Some of the best acts refuse to cling on and they move forward to such new sounds that they risk alienating their original audience. Then, there are musicians like Mogwai – long lasting, prolific artists that maintain their signature tone and their own sense of melody while somehow managing to never quite sound exactly the same. These precious few gems with their voluminous catalogs of nuanced differences beg the question, “how do I properly initiate a new listener?”
Swimming through back-catalogs from a band’s first EP onward just won’t work. You can’t let your new girlfriend see you skipping that one third track from the fourth album. You need to protect the work itself; make sure your listening party experiences those same highs, and are moved by that morose chord structure that brings chills to your spine, so find one album as the centerpiece that resonates the most with your intended audience. At the end of 2014, Mogwai incidentally released the perfect entry-level companion for new listeners while delivering a tasty morsel to their avid fans.
“Music Industry 3, Fitness Industry 1” was first released as a digital-only download to close out 2014, but it recently enjoyed a physical release earlier in 2015. In addition to three remixes, this 6-song EP consists of three unused tracks from the band’s last album, “Rave Tapes.” These three new tracks serve wonderfully as a bite-sized morsel that encompasses every facet of the Mogwai experience.
Kicking off with “Teenage Exorcists,” the group treats listeners to the rarer vocal side of Mogwai. While their 2001 release “Rock Action” did feature a few different vocal stylings, Mogwai is mainly an instrumental outfit. “Teenage Exorcists” mixes the band’s signature ambient shoe-gazey grooves with the pop-centric moods of today’s top college-radio indie darlings. The instruments take center stage in most of Mogwai’s material, but there is a palpable oratory pumping through the rhythms of this track, closest in style to the vocal approaches on the album “Mr. Beast.” It’s the perfect hook for newcomers.
Moving right into “History Day,” the band’s soothing nature can be felt seeping through the speakers, but the absolute gem of this gorgeous EP is its third track, “HMP Shaun William Ryder.” What almost opens as a post-punk rendition of Neil Young’s “Down by the River,” the song rides along a single solid grove into a tribal rumble of rock righteousness. While it never reaches the heights of some their heavier tracks such as “Batcat” or “Glasgow Mega-Snake,” it demonstrates the level of range these Scots effortlessly exude. Much like their brilliant “Ratts of the Capitol” from the album “Happy Songs For Happy People,” “HMP Shaun William Ryder” is a roller-coaster of a song that whisks you away from the bottom of the ride, taking you screaming with elation right to the middle of that first big drop. It’s an emotional drug and you’ll need to start the track right over as soon as it ends if you dare take that plunge. “HMP Shaun William Ryder” alone warrants the purchase of this EP.
While it may not have been intended to be anything more than an EP of b-sides and remixes, “Music Industry 3, Fitness Industry 1” is the one non-greatest hits album I’ve ever come across that succinctly captures the variety and succinct style of such a prolific artist in such a simple, small package. If you love the band, you would be remiss without it. If you’ve never listened to them before, definitely get your hands on this EP.