To every modern pop decade its uncreative flab. To the late-60s, surrealistic, musically boring psychedelia. To the mid-70s, witless, castrated soft rock. To the 80s, Madonna- and Prince-rip-offs. And of course the 90s saw the rise of mainstream alternative which prioritized sleekness and profits over subversiveness and emotion. The sound that has dogged that last five years is the lame-brained, tasteless, precious symphonic crap dignified with the name indie. Like Nirvana simultaneously giving new life to and killing alternative, Arcade Fire revitalized baroque pop but also cursed future music listeners. Funeral is full of strings and all that–real beautiful stuff. But that stuff attracted some flies, and those flies won’t buzz off, even though Arcade Fire has moved past the feeling with dignity.
Mogwai are all self-pity and slow songs with long, predictably unpredictable titles (“I Love You, I’m Going to Blow Up Your School”). On their recent Earth Division EP, Mogwai are in particularly bad form. This is all lowest-common-denominator stuff, targeted at those poor souls who hear strings and piano and automatically think, “It must be beautiful.”
“Get to France” sounds like something an untalented college freshman composed for Music 101. The b-section might not sound out of place in one of those quirky, big-budget “indie” movies you’re always hearing about, especially once the guys make the novel and daring decision to include a glockenspiel. Good for them, I guess?
“Hound of Winter” begins with guitar, which gets our hopes up. But then the vocals come in, mourning the loss of “things” and the breakage of “things” over time. Okay, okay, so these lyrics might not be unusable in some other context. Some bands might make em work. But not with this lifeless music, and not in a song with named “Hound of Winter.”
“Drunk and Crazy” is a noise experiment less listenable than “Revolution 9.” Its fast sections are not crazy, and its slow sections (strings again!) are not stirring.
“Does This Always Happen?” starts similarly to “Hound of Winter,” with guitar–only this time it’s clean electric, and it’s high up on the fretboard. Sounds nice. But then the other guys come in. Can you believe your ears? The pianist is feeling the same boredom we are! He can’t help but play whatever the hell he wants! Anyway, the one part repeats and repeats. I suppose the name is supposed to be a joke, but it’s not a good one. We’re left asking the titular question in a way Mogwai probably didn’t intend.
Terrible EP. Don’t buy, don’t listen. It’s been done before and better. Check out Hex by Bark Psychosis.