bright light ! discog

"rock action" 30th april 2001

  • sine wave
  • take me somewhere nice
  • o i sleep
  • dial:revenge
  • you don't know jesus
  • robot chant
  • 2 rights make 1 wrong
  • secret pint

  • untitled (japanese only - dave pajo on guitar)
  • close encounters (japanese only)

    note: the japanese-only 'untitled' is different to the track of the same name that appears on the "travels in constants" ep. an alternate version appears as 'd to e' on the may 2001 split tour 10" ep with bardo pond, featuring additional strings.
    'close encounters' features david pajo.

    sleeve artwork by andy vella, photos by steve gullick.
    images: front cover / back cover

    uk album chart - no. 23 (12th may 2001)

    international release dates

    japan: 04/04/2001
    holland release: 20/04/2001
    us: 24/04/2001

    catalogue numbers etc.

    cd: southpaw [pawcd001]
    vinyl lp: southpaw [pawlp001]
    us cd: matador [ole488]
    us vinyl lp: matador [ole488]
    japanese cd: toy's factory/southpaw [tfck-87244]
    australia/nz cd: spunk [URA042]
    brazilian cd: trama [t900/493-2]

    production/recording notes

    vocals by super furry animals singer gruff rhys on 'dial:revenge'. chavez guitarist matt sweeney also features on the album. 'take me somewhere nice' has backing vocals from dave pajo. stuart sings on two tracks (take me somewhere nice and secret pint) and provides vocoder-ed vocals, along with barry, on one track. barry sings on 'o i sleep'. the remote viewer did the electronic programming on '2 rights make 1 wrong', and also played banjo. horn and string sections also feature, as do the first major songwriting contributions from barry burns.

    writing credits (from chrysalis music publishing):
    2 rights make 1 wrong - stuart braithwaite (prs), andrew johnson (ns), craig tattersall (ns)
    take me somewhere nice - stuart braithwaite (prs), francis burns (ns)

    the album was recorded in glasgow and at tarbox road studios in cassadaga, new york, with tony doogan and dave fridmann, in 2000. fridmann also co-produced and engineered mogwai's previous album, 1999's "come on die young". the album continues the "more refined direction" set by the "mogwai ep + 2".
    september 23, 2000 mogwai begins recording with dave fridmann and tony doogan at tarbox. this is their first album out on southpaw.
    oct. 20, 2000 dave and mogwai in nyc. recording at sorcerer sound.
    nov. 24, 2000 mogwai returns to tarbox to mix the album for southpaw.
    dec. 5, 2000 mogwai plays a fine show at bjs, fredonia, ny. dave does magic live sound..obviously he doesn't write this stuff...

    nme news story, feb 2001:

    barry burns has revealed that their new album, 'rock action', released on april 23 through southpaw recordings, will not have any single releases to accompany it. "i just think singles are a rip-off when they're already on the album," he told "people don't buy a lot of singles as it is."

    asked if mogwai would be likely to play with manic street preachers following their support slots in 1998, burns said: "no, they can support us in america, though. they don't sell many records out there."

    chan marshall (car power) was supposed to sing on the album. here's stuart's version of events:

    we actually did ask chan to sing a song with us (rock action time). she wrote words and even sang them down the phone to me. we were really excited about it. we had finished the song and were waiting for her to arrive at fridmans studio to sing the song, after a while i called her to ask when she was coming and she said she'd lost the lyrics in a hotel in kansas and wasn't coming. it never happened.

    chino moreno (deftones) was also reported to be contributing a vocal. from drowned in sound:

    chino moreno from the deftones is to submit a vocal contribution to a previously unreleased mogwai song.

    the song, with a working title of 'cortez' was written last year and was recorded during the sessions for mogwai's upcoming album 'rock action', which due to be released though mogwai's own label southpaw, on the 23rd april

    mogwai were alerted to the fact that moreno was a fan of their's in a recent interview with the nme. during the interview he declared his appreciation of the band and said that he had in fact written lyrics for a number of mogwai songs.

    stuart braithwaite has been quoted as saying "we're not sure what we're going to do with the track yet. we've got a lot of stuff left over from the album, so we might release an ep."

    move over, eminem and elton — the latest unlikely collaboration is between post-rockers mogwai and deftones frontman chino moreno.

    the subtle scottish quartet asked the burly aggro-rocker to contribute vocals to an unfinished track they recorded while working on their album 'rock action', scheduled for an april 24 release. problem is, moreno isn't sure what they're looking for.

    "they sent me the track and i haven't yet finished it, because i'm waiting for them to give me a call and let me know exactly what they want," moreno said on friday. "it's really slow, three-piece type of stuff," he said of the song. "it's really good." despite his rugged veneer, moreno is a confessed softie who first expressed his fondness for the gentle glaswegians when the two groups shared a stage in england a few years ago. recently, mogwai returned the compliment, resulting in the offer to collaborate.

    "we were playing some show," moreno began. "i think it was a festival or something, and one of the guys from the band came up to me [because] i had said something in a magazine [about how] i had liked the band.

    "he just started talking to me about music, and then he sent me a track and asked me for the vocals on it," he continued. "to me, that's the best part about being in a band: when bands you admire actually [want] you to contribute [to] their work. i'm excited about that. "hopefully i get to actually do it. i hope i didn't miss the deadline." another obstacle is in moreno's way: what to do with the tape itself. "i don't know if they want me to send it to them or what," he said. "they only sent me a dat of the music. i don't know if they want me to record over that."

    stuart (march 2009):

    i guess that they were really busy and he just didn't get round to it. shame as the song was pretty good and also featured david pajo and matt sweeney.

    other tracks rumoured to appear on the album were 'rancho carne' and 'tramadol'. it is unclear whether these tracks actually exist, or whether they were just alternative names for tracks that do appear on the album.

    "there were loads of great songs that we recorded for rock action that didn't make the record. i'm sure we'll do something with them in the future though i'm not sure what. there is definitely another albums worth of songs only some of which have been heard." - stuart, june 2008.

    "you don't know jesus: john said this to me during a very drunken conversation that had somehow to turned to religion. his point was that i was brought up in an atheist household." - stuart, july 2008.

    alternate titles

    early promotional copies had alternate titles for:

  • take me somewhere nice ('string song')
  • o i sleep ('john piano')
  • dial:revenge ('barry guitar')
  • you don't know jesus ('the hard one')
  • robot chant ('stuarto pond')
  • two rights make 1 wrong ('banjo')
  • secret pint ('the d one')

    nme news story, nov 2000

    mogwai are lining up a collaboration with super furry animals frontman gruff rhys for their new album, currently being recorded in new york's sorcerer sound studios.

    the producer of the new album is dave fridmann, who worked on their last album 'come on die young' and produced mercury rev's 'deserter's songs'.

    the group hope to record vocals from gruff on one track and also plan to approach mudhoney's mark arm and cat power's chan marshall for further vocal duties.

    speaking to, mogwai frontman stuart braithwaite said: "there'll be no more than eight. we want to try and make a single album. we've already done two double albums and i think it'd be hard to follow a totally different path by doing another double album. most of the good albums ever made have been single albums."

    "i think there's certainly things on it that we haven't done before, and there's kinds of songs that people wouldn't associate with us. in anything we do, i want to do something that affects people and that we're proud of and isn't throwaway or disposable."

    the likely release date for the new album is april 2001 and will be the first release on the band's new label southpaw.

    track titles are currently at the work-in-progress stage. they include: 'banjo', 'string song', 'close encounters', 'sine wave' and 'the big e'.

    (nme?) news story, dec 2000

    scots post-rockers return in sweary style...

    scottish post-rock swine mogwai have completed work on their third lp, titled 'nevermind that shit, here comes mogwai!, according to their us label matador.

    released on april 10th, the record features contributions from super furry animals frontman gryff rhys and chavez guitarist matt sweeney, and was recorded with mercury rev and flaming lips producer dave fridman.

    the lp also features horn and string sections, a mogwai first, making it, according to one spokesperson, "the most expensive post-rock album ever made."

    "it's like the theme from beetlejuice," said a source close to the band, "it has that danny elfman vibe. and it's fucking punk rock too, despite the poncey fuckin' strings."

    drowned in sound news story, jan 2001

    to add to the rather substantial list of titles for the new mogwai album it seems matador are under the impression that it is to be called simply "rock action." rock action being the title of mogwai's very own label. since matador are their american record label we might finally have the final title. rejoice!

    'watch out, you slut'
    'pardon our dust as we grow to serve you better'
    'so many souls, so little time'
    'this is noise vol. four'
    'public notice: unattended children will be sold as slaves'
    'send it on'
    'take me somewhere nice'
    'the most expensive post-rock album in the world....ever!
    'we're not judgemental, we're instrumental'

    promo items

    a very limited number of customised electro-harmonix 'big muff pi' fx pedals were produced to tie in with the release of 'rock action'. most were given away as competition prizes.

    southpaw sales notes

    mogwai's third full length lp 'rock action' comes two years after the groundbreaking and magnificent 'come on die young'. the new album will also be their first for new pias independent label southpaw recordings. this record cuts a very different cloth to that of old. 'rock action' sees a considerable leap in the songwriting talent of the band - including, for the first time, significant contributions from barry burns (burns joined the band at the tail-end of the cody sessions). stuart braithwaite of the band adds, "look, there are a lot of bands making the kind of records mogwai made two or more years ago, so we had to make something different. we've brought on the banjos, the violins, the trombones and i did some singing. there's still noise though" the album features instrumental contributions from dave pajo (papa m / slint) and electronica duo remote viewer. gruff rhys, who has long been a friend and fan of the band, adds vocals on 'dial:revenge' mogwai will be playing 4 major cities during the week prior and week of release; london, glasgow, manchester, dublin. a very special live event is planned for the summer then later in the year the band will undertake their first comprehensive uk tour for almost 2 years.

    matador press release

    “i’m gonna take satisfaction/i’m gonna get rock action” — iggy pop, “rock action”

    mogwai return with their third full length lp and contrary to rumour, half—truth and wilful disinformation the new record is called rock action (working titles have included exorcist iii, public notice: unattended children will be sold as slaves’ and pardon our dust as we grow to serve you better.) rock action comes two years after the groundbreaking and magnificent come on die young.

    rock action cuts a very different cloth to that of old. mogwai have done with the double albums, done with the post rock schtick. rock action sees a considerable leap in the songwriting talent of the band — including, for the first time, significant contributions from barry burns (burns joined at the tail end of the cody sessions). this is a group simultaneously focused and unhinged, as rooted in tradition as they are compelled to refute conventional practice. they’re just as likely to stroke your head as mess with it, but they’ll do that too, because they can and because it’s necessary. mogwai love rock, but take offense at so much of what calls itself "rock." all of which begins to explain how mogwai come to be where they are at this very moment: poised to release a record titled rock action.

    some mogwai history: formed in 1995 by stuart braithwaite (guitar) and dominic aitchison (bass), soon to be joined by martin bulloch (drums) and john cummings (guitar), and much later barry burns (see below) first gig at the 13th note in glasgow. first single ‘tuner’/‘lower’ released on band’s own rock action label, march 1996. three more singles appear during the next 12 months, each for a different label, each heightening the sense that here was a band unafraid of aiming high and then reaching higher, beyond the parochial definitions of what young men playing guitars are supposed to achieve. emerging into a world suffocating in the creative halitosis of that thing known as britpop, mogwai were unapologetic about their ambition, unafraid to believe they could make records as great as those that had ennobled their musical salad days — the velvet underground and nico, closer, isn’t anything... mogwai served notice that it was still ok to feel, still ok to believe that music wasn’t a matter of life or death — but rather something far more important than that.

    1997 saw the release of ten rapid, a user—friendly compilation of the preceding 12 months’ singles, priming the public for the giant steps that were to come. first "4 satin," the band’s debut release for esteemed glasgow independent label chemikal underground, featuring three songs of absolute and intense degree. then the debut full—length mogwai young team. a staggering statement of intent, a record filled with wordless songs of love and hate and devotion, it seemed the only flaw in its immaculate design was: how to do better next time?

    but such are the perils of an external perspective. mogwai themselves dismissed mogwai young team almost as soon as it was released. the recording sessions had been rushed, they claimed. intimations of a fractious atmosphere in the studio — alluded to on the record itself by the song "tracy" — were seemingly borne out by the departure in bizarre circumstances of auxiliary noisemaker brendan o’hare, who had joined earlier that year in a fit of youthful enthusiasm. with the benefit of hindsight, 1997 was mogwai’s year of living dangerously, embracing the rock beast...and surviving. they resolved to never leave anything to chance again.

    in summer 1998 came a new ep, the combatively titled "no education = no future (fuck the curfew)," a hard—but—fair comment on the so—called labour government’s enlightened attitude towards urban deprivation as imposed upon the teenagers of the band’s native lanarkshire. so potent a doomed youth anthem was lead track "christmas steps" that it caught the eye of the manic street preachers, who invited mogwai as support on their autumn enormodome jaunt. for the manics it was a chance to vicariously relive their splenetic past. for mogwai it was a chance to scare the shit out of several thousand people every night. in wales, dominic showed the unappreciative hordes his arse: "it was the biggest cheer we got on the whole tour," he remembered.

    in november mogwai departed glasgow to record a new album, with a new secret weapon in the ranks: barry burns, wit, raconteur and all round instrumental utility man. give barry a horn and he’ll blow it, hand him a flute and he’ll toot it, and you don’t even want to know how he treats guitars. with barry’s generous contributions to the fore, mogwai’s second album come on die young could hardly fail. released in march 1999, it proved the band justified in their criticisms of its predecessor, and the point was emphasised by a string of legendary live shows, providing glastonbury with a suitably stellar climax, during which stuart braithwaite urged the masses to "fuck the queen." that summer also witnessed mogwai’s move into the rag trade with their cheeky "blur: are shite" t—shirts. so demonstrably justified was this opinion that a certain mr albarn himself was moved to demand a consignment.

    y2k came and went, thankfully without martin’s pacemaker succumbing to the mythical bug. more thankfully still it heralded yet more new creative horizons for mogwai. they solidified a mutually supportive relationship with legendary producer arthur baker by collaborating on a 20—minute—plus version of a traditional jewish hymn "my father my king." this in turn became the centerpiece of the band’s triumphant performance at all tomorrow’s parties, the now—essential weekend festival held in a holiday camp on england’s south coast. amidst much paddling and piddling about, mogwai found time to curate the event, ensuring the participation of such illustrious forebears and kindred spirits as shellac, sonic youth, papa m and wire.

    all of which goes to prove the essence of what makes mogwai such a precious band: they mean what they do and do what they mean. they don’t let their art get in the way of having a good time. and they never stop thinking, pushing, kicking against the pricks. so when it’s time for a new mogwai record, the safest thing to expect is the unexpected. rock action is that and much more. after two epic double albums, rock action is a single set, eight tracks, less than 40 minutes long. aesthetically, it’s near perfect: it could almost be one song in eight phases. gruff rhys from super furry animals sings in his native welsh on the heartbreaking "dial: revenge," while stuart himself sings on "take me somewhere nice," "o i sleep" and "secret pint" (which is, as you will appreciate, the song—title of the year). once again it was recorded at dave fridmann’s tarbox studios, with additional sessions at ca va in glasgow and sorcerer sound in new york city.

    "it’s very different," says stuart. "we’ve used a lot of varied instrumentation, like banjos and violins and trumpets. oh, and trombones! it’s not stark at all. it’s more pet sounds than psychocandy. it’s velvety, with a little ’v’. we’ve moved away from the sackcloth of old. there’s still noise, though. we’ve spent a lot of money making this album sound hissy. there’s a lot of bands at the moment making the kind of music we’ve already made. we needed to do something different. people are going to be really surprised. the whole album is peppered with spastic magic."

    several years ago that noted modern sage stephen malkmus opined that mogwai were "the band of the 21st century." it should be noted that the 21st century has now arrived.

    review links

  • virgin
  • nme
  • pitchfork
  • the onion
  • the independent newspaper
  • the guardian newspaper
  • the scotsman newspaper
  • billboard
  • popnews - in french
  • drowned in sound

    thanks to steve pearson, lars willemsens, jeff millar, roderick and james clarke.

    early reviews

    below you will find a collection of reviews and impressions sent in by readers who have heard the record before it's official release, either as a promo, via napster, or through other nefarious means.

    first up is rob devlin:

    moving more towards a "mature sound" for some bands means languid ballads, longer songs, and better production values. for mogwai, it seems, a more mature sound means toning down the loud-quiet-loud dynamics of their early sound in favor of more intricate arrangements and braver instrumentation. it works on this their third proper album, "rock action," to full effect, providing a vital listening experience to those who are fans of new frontiers in rock music.

    mogwai have always been about their interesting sonic ventures, as well as their 10-minute-and-then-some instrumental epics. on "rock action," things are a bit more sparse, with the longest track clocking it at 9:31. don't think you'll miss out on much, though. the experimentation and intricacy still exist, and some songs found here are the best mogwai have ever put to tape. don't mistake me: "rock action" is mogwai's finest hour.

    "take me somewhere nice" reveals to us the beauty and majesty mogwai have only hinted at before. the strings on this song, with the quiet guitar and bass are a wonderful basis of the ultimate direction of the song -- where stuart braithwaite shows us exactly how much his vocals have improved over time, lamenting on what is and cannot be, and what it's all for. "cody" on "come on die young" had many shaking their heads. "...nice" will have fans bobbing them in time with the music. "dial:revenge," the collaboration with gruff rhys of the super furry animals, is luscious, with it's layered, harmonizing vocals. but what really gets me on the whole album is the drums! dave fridmann, at the knobs again, finally gives martin bulloch his due on these tracks.

    it's on the bottom half of the record, though, that "rock action" really shines. "you don't know jesus" and "2 rights make 1 wrong" are mogwai's best songs ever. period. the flange backing the guitar and bass attack on "...jesus" is spooky and dark, lending a viscerally evil tone to the proceedings. but it is the build and climax of "2 rights..." that will have mogwai fans on their seats at the shows. horns, organ, guitar, bass, loud drums and just a phenom melody. a great, great track. fine rock music.

    the only weak points on "rock action" are where mogwai sounds like a band other than mogwai. "sine wave," while pretty, morose, and noisy, sounds like a remix of nine inch nails' "a warm place" (the notes are almost the same, though it is interesting to note that even "a warm place" rips on bowie's "crystal japan"). and "robot chant" could be a trans am outtake, but is barely recognizable even to matter. and it is no matter. the album is still mogwai's best effort yet. concise, tight, and hypnotizing with headphones on, "rock action" is exactly that: rock music in motion. mogwai lead the charge. will you follow them? the choice is yours.

    i'm already starting down the path after them...

    the following is from justin:

    Well i'm impatient [to wait for the release] and got it fromnapster (although i will buy the album fair and square when its out).

    I think the songs sound very interesting, definately some new territory for mogwai. The only weird thing is that one track called "2 rights make one wrong" (which is great BTW) lasts almost 10 minutes, then another beautful track called "o i sleep" is only 1 minute long. "o i sleep" is a proper song, but its strange that the guys didnt want to work it into a more complete song. not a complaint just an observation. oh and stuart's voice sounds great and very NOT-over produced.

    andrew farrell:

    i managed to get hold of 'rock action' from *apster and now the initial excitement has passed feel i have a pretty fair view of the record.

    the first thing to note is that is no way near as dark or epic as 'cody' but certainly retains the direct feel of the e.p. at about 40 minutes long it feels very short for a mogwai album, but this makes the record more listenable. 'you don't know jesus' is very mogwai, building intensity underpinned by hypnotic rythms and melodies, '2 rights make 1 wrong' has a very uplifting quality almost like some crazy trance tune. overall i think most fans will be happy, the quality is still there but the giant strides musically between 'young team' and 'cody' have not been made with 'rock action'. you'll hum it, play it again and again but be struck by it's lack of complexity.


    firstly, i must assure everyone i'll buy the album when it officially comes out, no doubt about it.

    my general impression is that it's a harder listen, and it doesn't really jump out at you from the get-go like previous albums. whereas previous albums, at least for myself, have satisfied the emotional needs of both extremes (delicately reserved vs. bitch-ass loud, for example), this record seems to find mogwai in more middle ground. that's saying nothing of its quality, as i think it's an excellent record. i personally don't think, however, that there are more than two tracks that sound very similar to previous mogwai - the skeleton is there on every song, but there's just a lot more going on. people wanting the same, comfortable mogwai will simply not get it -- at first (how many of you, HONESTLY, completely understood mbv "loveless" the first time you heard it? etc etc etc....). more voices, more elements of electronica (which i'm perfectly comfortable with - i don't know about you folks, but the same people i listen to mogwai with are the same ones i'm dancing to house music with at 5:00am); in general, a much more progressive, mature album that definitely takes some risks (including clocking in at under 38 minutes). most of my favorite albums of all time took a couple of listens to get the hang of, to fully understand the band's intention, when it would all sort of come together out of nowhere. this, for me, is one of those records. i hate name-checking, as it sort of pigeonholes things sometimes, but i can't help but think of kid a. not as much how the MUSIC sounds, but rather as a representation of a step that the band took. that being said, i really think this is the kind of record, like kid a, that will wind up on many critic's top ten lists, and deservedly so. it will be interesting to see how they perform some of the songs live, as there are simply many more instruments (acoustic guitar, banjo, drum machines, and vocals that are much more textured and integral on at least one song). but again, the skeleton's still there, and the songs live may be stripped down to their bare essentials (ie, what i'm used to from mogwai!).

    i would also like to add the curious feeling of guilt i have for having even heard this album. i feel like i celebrated my birthday two months early, and there's a pit in my stomach because of it.

    whatever whatever. the album is wonderful, i'm about to listen to it again, and probably again after that. the only difference between this album and other mogwai's is that "rock action" doesn't punch you in the freaking face -- it begins, ends before you want it to, and lingers in your head afterwards making more and more and more sense. while not as accessible, this is superior to anything mogwai has previously done, for reasons which are simply more subtle. i do hope everyone who downloads it buys it. mogwai is exactly that band that napster can cause problems for, as they're not yet huge but have an extremely loyal and tight fan base who are anxious to hear this and will waste little time downloading it. no more preaching, i promise. i'm new to this, so please go easy on me!

    i'll see everyone in san francisco @ bimbo's!!!!!

    p.s. random note: the second song (again, no spoilers), was played at all tomorrow's parties, and introduced as "this is a new song." so, if you have a copy of that, you already have one of the new ones.

    owen deneny:

    i could not really understand all the fuss about doing well at school when i was a child. to me it was all about rebelling against the authority and lack of imagination that smoothered me as a child. but how, after listening to 'rock action', i whish i had payed more attention in my english classes! i feel compelled to write how beautiful i find what this is that i am hearing. i feel anything that i write will never justify this emotion-provoking album!! so i will simply say IT IS VERY GOOD! I LIKE IT ALOT! AND SO WILL YOU!!

    enrico lowson:

    having only heard "take me somewhere nice" and "sine wave" it's difficult for me to speculate on the entire album. however, sine wave builds into a nice mesh of motorik and it works best when you listen to it during the breakfast news (entertainment part) or when playing fifa (road to world cup '98). peely played "take me somewhere nice" last week and it's got a topping ocean floor guitar riff- the simple vocal lines are like a nick drake monologue would be. rock action promises much fun to be had by all.

    john mahoney:

    i picked up 'rock action' today and i can say right now, after listening to it twice, that it is my favorite mogwai album to date. i tried not to read any reviews or anything else beforehand, but i did know that 'rock action' found the band heading in different directions. the electronics and singing and quietness all fit the new mogwai perfectly, and the original spirit of soft-loud-soft guitar symphonies is still quite present.

    hearing these songs for the first time in chicago was a definite plus; when i put the cd in my player, tons of forgotten memories of those new songs came back -- especially during sine wave, which is a terrific tune. the electronics, not the guitars, build up slowly to a wondrous wall of noise. one of my worries was stuart singing all the time, and the instrumentalist flair being lost. but the songs that carry his almost whispering voice are actually some of my favorites: "secret pint" has already climbed into my top five mogwai songs list. not only does it have one of the coolest song titles ever, it is one of the strongest tunes the band has done.

    another thing that is immediately apparent is the drumming. i'm not a drummer, but i did notice myself saying "those drums are sweet" in several songs, especially (again) secret pint, with a hi-hat crash that makes me smile. i didn't really notice martin that much at the concert -- his drums were on the floor with everyone else and he mainly kept it simple, but i have to say cheers to him on 'rock action'. the artwork is also neat, with the cover part that says "mogwai" being a sheet of clear plastic that sits on top of the actual picture (kind of like that insert in the "mwng" album). there's good photos of the band and an artistic collage of reddish pictures all taken at nice n sleazy -- i need to go there now. speaking of the super furries, i think barry is wearing his mwng t-shirt in the pictures, as the mwng logo is shown in the collage. this day was immediately made great when i bought what has already become one of my favorite albums.

    review from 'the wire' by tom ridge

    in their apparent need to put distance between themselves and audience expectations, mogwai have backed themselves into a corner. now, instead of coming out fighting, they're attempting to slip out quietly while everyone's looking the other way. 'rock action', from its title down, is about expectations unfulfilled: a collection of slow, moody pieces whose unexceptional nature is made more frustrating by the occasional flashes of inspiration. stuart braithwaite's vocals are less than engaging and the slightness of some tracks suggests they ran out of enthusiasm before completing the album.

    review from 'magnet' by fred mills

    coming out of 1999's epic 'come on die young', mogwai found itself in the position of having experienced all that post-rock had to offer, and 'rock action' is both the triumphant afterglow and a massively significant step forward. with hindsight, we can now see 'cody's dreamy title track and the waltzing 'chocky' were foreshadowing. but the difference between the two albums is similar to the before-and-after of the beatles' pilgrimage to the maharishi in rishikesh; mogwai peers through permanently altered sensory lenses, waiting for the world to sense the transcendence. in the process of this comparatively brief, 39-minute set, extraordinarily rich and emotionally riveting sequences unfold, beginning with the shimmery, hissing instrumental overture ('sine wave'), which quickly cedes to a luscious, string-laden meditation ('take me somewhere nice'). even the lone number bearing witness to mogwai's massed-crescendo signature, '2 rights make 1 wrong', contains not aimless noise but an entire daydream nation's worth of forward-yearning, cinematic grandeur. with these choir-like voicings and elaborate musical arrangements mounting - sir george martin conducts the phil spector orchestra 2001, anyone? - an awareness dawns, too, that we're privy to the unfolding of a seismic shift in musical temperament. this isn't exactly unheard of in the biz; what's rare is to detect such a shift while it's happening. the rock action is so monumentally magisterial, it approaches near-heretical status: the post-post-rock era's 'sgt. pet sounds' lonely hearts club band

    review from australian magazine 'juice', by bronwyn thompson

    if you're not a mogwai fan, you'll wonder what the fuss is about. however, if you are a believer, you'll know their third longplayer, rock action, may well be life-altering brilliance. with mogwai, little exists between the extremes; you get it or you don't. i get it.

    rock action continues down the path gloriously cut by 1999's ep+2; the evolution of the band played out by a focus on production, diverse instrumentation, and an abandoning of the soft-loud post-rock road travelled since "helicon 1". if young team threatened to overflow with frustration, and come on die young was bound tight with dark intensity, rock action is expansive, uplifting and huge in scope.

    "sine wave" signals this change with a cacophony of noise taking shape above its swirling melody. continuing on from "cody", guitarist stuart braithwaite lends aching vocals for the beautifully subdued waltz, "take me somewhere nice"; spaciousness hidden by an undercurrent of noise and orchestra. the solemn vocals soothe again on hymn-like closer "secret pint", with its calming, low-style piano sparseness and rhythm.

    the material is strikingly distinct, but linked with clever continuity -- and not necessarily chronologically -- almost as if the eight takes were roughly arranged and then sculpted into one sonic landscape. strings are a constant, while keys lend an eerie cinematic feel to "take me somewhere nice", "o i sleep" and "secret pint"; and the noise of "sine wave" is reiterated through interlude, "robot chant."

    despite mogwai residing in the production penthouse, "you don't know jesus" maintains a strong tie to earlier incarnations; darkness tempered by a swirling rhythm verging on chaos, while guitars, percussion and samples build the wall of sound. framing the album is epic "2 rights make 1 wrong", absorbing the spattered vocals and noise of "sine wave", the timing of "take me somewhere nice", the unrelenting grandness of "you don't know jesus". textured with trumpet, keys, strings and banjo, "2 rights make 1 wrong" establishes itself as rock action's "mogwai fear satan".

    determined to show their music is "bigger than words, wider than pictures," mogwai succeed in just 38 minutes -- and in the process, render 90 per cent of the current sonic landscape irrelevant.

    review from

    'rock action' cuts a very different cloth to that of old. mogwai have done with the double albums, done with the post rock schtick. 'rock action' sees a considerable leap in the songwriting talent of the band — including, for the first time, significant contributions from barry burns (burns joined at the tail end of the cody sessions). this is a group simultaneously focused and unhinged, as rooted in tradition as they are compelled to refute conventional practice. they're just as likely to stroke your head as mess with it, but they'll do that too, because they can and because it's necessary. mogwai love rock, but take offense at so much of what calls itself "rock." all of which begins to explain how mogwai come to be where they are at this very moment: [releasing]a record titled rock action.

    "it's very different," says stuart. "we've used a lot of varied instrumentation, like banjos and violins and trumpets. oh, and trombones! it's not stark at all. it's more pet sounds than psychocandy. it's velvety, with a little 'v'. we've moved away from the sackcloth of old. there's still noise, though. we've spent a lot of money making this album sound hissy. there's a lot of bands at the moment making the kind of music we've already made. we needed to do something different. people are going to be really surprised. the whole album is peppered with spastic magic."

    several years ago that noted modern sage stephen malkmus opined that mogwai were "the band of the 21st century." it should be noted that the 21st century has now arrived.

    review from mojo

    it clocks in at a sensible 38 minutes, it's on a fresh label, it has a star guest and its title explicitly promises to deliver finally, at the third time of asking, the kind of exhilarating strobe-lit ruckus that is the mogwai live experience. where 1999's 'come on die young' was often so spare-sounding as to leave you wondering if it had actually finished five minutes ago, 'rock action' - recorded again with david fridmann (mercury rev/flaming lips) in upstate new york - tales the lead of the interim 'stanley kubrick' ep, where strings and brass entered the 'gwai equation to thrilling effect. from the title down, 'take me somewhere nice' is a joyous reminder that most so-called post-rock these days routinely forgets to rock or even be enjoyable, while '2 rights make 1 wrong' also weaves in touches of banjo(!), dub-techno and choral singing. if beauty and ambition be the defining values of that album title concept, they're served up here in spades.

    andrew perry, mojo, may 2001

    review from the daily telegraph newspaper

    american bands sonic youth and slint were their original inspiration, and this glasgow-based five-piece have in the past terrified the listener with their vast guitar instrumentals, which often build to a torrent of pure noise. despite the name, 'rock action' explores much more gentle territory, introducing a batch of dreamy ballads that live somewhere between mercury rev and canadian guitar maestros godspeed you black emperor! the arrangements are subtle and seductive, with strings and horns supported by mid-tempo finger- picking on acoustic and electric guitars. a plucked banjo, and the occasional "la la la" in the backing vocals will no doubt surprise some fans, but rabid, untamed noise is often still to be found lurking beneath the surface; every now and then the band unleash exhillarating slabs of it. it is the songs that provide the backbone of the album, though, and while they are not exactly the sort to change your life, they do drift by in a pleasing, semi-conscious haze.

    daily telegraph, 28th april 2001 (richard wolfson). thanks to chris todd for sending this.

    review from the sunday telegraph newspaper

    the title is ironic, presumably, since the scottish miserablists' third album is quite their mellowest to date. and where its predecessor 'come on die young's understated velvet underground angst seemed designed to cause you great misery and pain, the new one is more like a rainy wednesday afternoon where you can just see a hint of sun breaking through the clouds. which by mogwai's standards means euphoric. there's a particularly gorgeous, led zep iii-type folky track with welsh vocals from gruff out of super furry animals; and amid the grunting, hissing, fuzz and barely contained portentousness elsewhere you'll find much charm. nice.

    sunday telegraph, 29th april 2001 (james delingpole)

    review from aquarius records, san francisco

    let's face it. when mogwai's 'young team' came out, that was it. the final word on the 'quiet/loud moody instrumental indie rock' sound. they had done it. what does a band do then? where do they take their music? while they were trying to figure that out, godspeed you black emperor stepped in and took mogwai's sound in a new direction, stretched it out, turnd it into eerie soundtracks and haunting ambience. but for mogwai, barring some miracle, there was no place to go but down. and down they went. "come on die young' seemed like a half assed attempt at a new direction. and unfortunately the 'new direction' they chose wasn't all that new. a kind of wishy washy, un-dynamic generic slow-core indie rock.

    so when we heard the new mogwai, we were ready to write it off, and we sort of did. it was slow, listless, and not at all like 'young team' which i think we had all been secretly hoping it would be. but once we got over all our non-musical issues, and actually sat down and listened to it close, we were singing a different tune.

    it definitely doesn't sound all that much like mogwai. and it actually does sound quite a bit like godspeed (or what i imagined a godspeed cover band started by the guys in mogwai and the guys in teenage fanclub might sound like) but that's not a bad thing. much in the way that godspeed took the mogwai sound and made it their own, it seems like this time around it's mogwai's turn to say 'yeah? well watch this' and take their twisted sound back, and twist it even more, into a tranquil and dreamy, beautifully lush and absolutely epic album. a record you can sink right into. glistening shifting guitar layers and textures, skittery and lazy rhythms, dramatic minor key swells all accompanied by drowsy vocals. a lot more vocals than we expected, but dang if they aren't nice. and it feels like beneath all this grandeur and epic sound, there are actually little hidden nuggets of catchy pop, just obscured enough to keep it interesting.

    on their last release it was the horrendous cover art that didn't fit the music, this time it's the title itself that's the culprit (rock action? hardly). ah, but we know those scottish lads to be a mass of contradictions. nevertheless, this is a fantastic record. mesmerizingly beautiful and totally essential.