Wednesday, February 23, 2011

P&J 2010 (One and Done): Mogwai, "Special Moves"

25 points, t-437, voted on by Daniel King

Out of the ten albums on the "One and Done" list, this is the only one that I heard in 2010 (which is probably not at all surprising).

It's not surprising that they'd eventually do a live album (unless "Government Commissions" counts -- the band calls "Special Moves" their first ever live album so I'll side with their interpretation of the term "live album") since basically everyone agrees that Mogwai kill it live and always have. Even the people who stopped caring about their studio albums years ago still acknowledge that Mogwai are great live. So "Special Moves" should be a slam dunk success that everyone can agree to like, right?

Maybe I'm burned out from hearing so many bootlegs of live Mogwai shows over the years. That's partly true, no doubt, but I never get tired of hearing new versions of "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong" or "Friend of the Night", so there's more to it than that. Maybe it's because I've heard so many live Mogwai shows that I simply can't be impressed by hearing yet another live document to add to the dozens I've already heard. That's also partly true, but it was only a few months that I heard (for the first time) what might be my favourite ever live version of "Mogwai Fear Satan" (from their Glastonbury 1999 set), even after I figured that I'd heard every live incarnation/evolution of MFS over the years and couldn't be surprised by it anymore. Same goes for a live version of "Like Herod" recorded in Austin, TX in 06/2001, which was definitely surprising because I've never cared much for that interminable song either live or on record. Maybe the vinyl version of the album (which I haven't heard), which has six extra tracks, is the definitive, sprawling way to hear this live project in all its epic glory.

No, I'm going to dismiss most of the above excuses and go with the obvious -- none of these live versions are all that good. They've done much better. These can't possibly be the hand picked best performances from the last tour. Maybe they intentionally compromised on quality because of running times, or because certain noisy bits don't come across well during mastering, or because they absolutely had to have equal representation from all their records. It's nice to hear a clean, polished, professional-sounding live album from Mogwai, but it's hardly essential listening even for devoted fans.

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