Bigger than words, wider than pictures

Poets have inflicted on society an inequitable untruth: that no matter the immensity of a scene, no matter the immediacy of a situation, words can adequately capture its essence. However, on Mogwai’s latest release, The Hawk is Howling, these prolific Scots have continued their efforts to unshackle meaning from the bondage of the word. Despite this album escaping entirely the pitfalls of language, this review, unfortunately, cannot.

So, like a painter with a single color on his palette, like a sculptor without a chisel, I’m to set about describing a sound so monumental, so vast, that it parallels the awe and scope of a night sky. If the stars had a sound, that sound would be Mogwai.

Words cannot separate breath from smoke, ash from snow for the December smoker; ears accustomed to the straightforward preaching of MoTab will likely experience difficulty extracting coherence:

This album is really good. You should listen to it. If you do, you will feel like your life is more important than it really is.
You don’t have to peer vertiginously over the edge of the 31st floor of a downtown office building, watching your thoughts plummet, crumple, lie limp amid the accumulated heap of gawking fools, spread on the smoldering concrete below like insects or mold on rot.

You don’t need spectators for your final throes, don’t need the five o’clock news to accommodate my grotesque fascination with death or your exhibitionism, to dole out like PBJs to soon-to-be sticky-mouthed toddlers the grisly details of your demise, a corporate landmark, a must-see conclusion to the doldrums you endured — and now a word from our sponsors.

All of this and more can be avoided by letting Mogwai be the sensation life chose to deny you, the warmth of the sun on your skin midwinter, the frigid understanding in your spine after a plaintive good-bye, the numb resignation and self-loathing defeat of an unwanted lover’s breath on your neck.

This album is the explosive urges you’ve suppressed, the truths you’ve denied, the calm and the storm, the cliché you can’t let yourself abuse. For all who have ever yearned for the divine, for the hand of God, or its shadow, to manifest in their otherwise mundane lives, to direct them with the candor of Scorsese and the wit of Fellini, this album is the answer to these prayers of vain repetition, these cries for validation: God has spoken, and she said she’s hungry.

If you listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, this probably is not the album for you, or rather, you are not the person for this album — this album is your soul mate, but you haven’t lived a life worthy of the sort of eternal companionship Mogwai came to offer. Vomit stains on your shoes and scars on your liver are the recommend needed for entrance to this temple.

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