Listen to this track by post-rock powerhouse Mogwai. It’s “Friend of The Night”, a highpoint of the excellent Mr. Beast from 2006. This track reveals something of the lyrical side of the band, in addition to their propensity for layering guitar parts into dense walls of sound.
Rock guitar playing in the last forty years has been, to a certain extent, an exercise in reacting to virtuoso playing of Hendrix, Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and others. Either you’re for ’em or against ’em. Yet, with this band, there is a different approach to playing a guitar loudly, yet also reaching for something other than guitar heroics.
Mogwai don’t hold back on wattage, choosing to create interlaced melody lines instead of individual soloing. The efforts of combined parts into a larger whole, often building up the melodies and counter-melodies bit by bit into a crescendo, creates a unique kind of tension. And as such, the idea that guitar playing must be flashy and immediate to be powerful is revealed to be nonsense.
This song in particular is a perfect example of mood, melody, and monster volume. Despite the lack of lyrics, there is a powerful emotional undercurrent implied here. Actually, it may be because there are no lyrics that this is the case; the listener’s ear is encouraged to fill in the gaps. And so, what this song, and others, may be ‘about’ is entirely subjective, yet in many ways with a greater potential to strike an emotional chord.
For more information about Mogwai, check out mogwai.co.uk.