Sound — 8
Scottish post-rock heroes Mogwai's first album was released in 1996 and was very well-received, but one criticism was that it had simply been mastered too quietly. It's now been remastered to make it as loud as Mogwai should be, so what more reason do you need to invest? Even for the fledgling guitar partnership of Stuart Braithwaite & John Cummings, the variety on this record is huge. Over the course of these 10 (mostly) instrumental tracks, guitars chime beautifully, clatter menacingly, sing with feedback and roar like buzzsaws. Then there's the basslines of Dom Aitkinson, pitched perfectly between ominous and euphoric.
Yes! I am A Long Way From Home and Mogwai Fear Satan are perfect bookends for the album, the former developing a simple guitar and bass theme to great effect, and the latter an almighty 17-minute epic, seeing another simple theme get gradually louder and more distorted as the track goes on, before collapsing into a lengthly flute-led coda. Like Herod shows Mogwai's darker side early on - an ominous bass riff opens the song, gradually fading out to nothingness until an almighty wall of death noise hits you out of the blue - it actually made me jump the first time I heard it. Summer shows the band's talent for writing simple 4-minute almost-pop songs that they would later develop. Sadly there is some filler - little piano sketches that don't really go anywhere, and With Portfolio, which seems to have very little point. But with the quality of the other tracks, this can easily be ignored.
Lyrics — 10
Only one track on the album actually contains lyrics - R you Still In 2 It? - but it's such a fantastic song it deserves it's own section. A clean, tremolo guitar picks out a simple arpeggiated riff, something Stuart Braithwaite really has a knack for, whilst a heavily accented Scottish vocal half-speaks, half-sings over the top, trying to save a dying relationship - "Am I your only one? Cos you're still my only one/We could go into town, spend some money, go to the pictures and see something funny, we could share a popcorn then go to the pub, get right tanked up then go home and fight". When the rest of the band join in as a choir for the chorus ("Will you still miss me, when I am gone/Will you still kiss me, even when I know"), angels descend.
Overall Impression — 9
This album is the Godfather of the subgenre of post-rock that includes the likes of Explosions In The Sky, This Will Destroy You et al. (we'll ignore the post-Godspeed 'wall of strings' bands for now) Mogwai drew together their influences, the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth, and created something truly unique, which so many have tried to copy but have just missed the point. Mogwai have released some truly great albums since - the ominous, sparse Come On Die Young developed the R U Still In2 It/Like Herod art of subtlety and contrast, Rock Action was a much more song-based album, and there's the lush, melodic Happy Songs, and Mr Beast - but in this reviewer's opinion Young Team has yet to be bettered.