Basement Jacks?
Matt Absymal reviews some sounds from the footholds of the year.

Mogwai - Friend of the Night (PIAS)

The question with Mogwai was always 'where do we go from here?' They nailed the format pretty much from the off: 1) Quiet pretty brittle bit 2) Cacophanous apocalyptic riffola 3) Q.P.B.B. 4) Cacophany 5) Repeat until ears and/or olfactory organs implode. 6) Revise chords and repeat eleven times. 7) Bask in smugness of classic album penning. It was always going to become formulaic. So began the Mogwai wilderness years, a period beginning with 2000's stupendously named yet largely unresolved 'Rock Action' and ending - so we are told - now.

Upcoming LP Mr Beast has been heralded as The Return to Form Record by all and sundry. Even more excitingly, though - on this evidence - it isn't merely a Return to Formula. Friend of the Night sees a piano riff so rich it causes warm melancholy to viscerally ooze out of the speakers (a Mr Muscle job, fo' sho') leading a kaleidoscopic swirl of jarring, ferrous guitars and behemodrums on a gorgeous three-minute odyssey through subterrania. Instrumental lines propel each other along, cog-like and otherworldly, and arguments shift like tectonic plates. Whilst it lacks the stop/start quiet/loud dynamics of early Moggies classics, the unreconstructed melodies are still filtered through the trademark deconstructivist template. But this is a multifaceted, complex, whirling midtempo howitzer of a post rock record that makes us very happy indeed. It even has an accordion. Or a keyboard that sounds like an accordion. Or a guitar that sounds like a keyboard that sounds like an accordion. I don't think it matters.

A beaut.

The Boyfriends - 'I Love You' (Boobytrap)

For 20-odd seconds the hype seems gloriously justified: guitars lumber fuzzily through some kind of Elasticarevisited warm up and the whole thing threatens to explode into a snarling new-wave stampede.

Then it all goes wrong. By the end of the tenth line of wet weekend vocals I've run out of fingers to count the clichés on. "I really do feel it's the most important British pop record for years", says Martin Elevated Sense Of Own Importance (vocals; clichés; we assume fashionable hair) "because it says something that too many people are afraid to say, in a way that too many people are afraid to say it." Hmmm. What I Love You says is 'I love you', in a way that manages to combine zero apt and original metaphors with minimal flair for the English language, and is sung by a man who sounds like he could be a middle manager in a particularly docile branch of the Inland Revenue. The press release neglects to mention this, or, for that matter, the fact that half the band used to be in half-decent Too Pure also-ran bohemians Jack, whose recorded output I would recommend infinitely more than this protracted exercise in banality.

On a positive note, the b-sides sound like a latterday Gene.

OK. I lied about the 'positive note.'

Matt Abysmal

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