So… your favourite band turns up. It’s been sixteen, seventeen years since that last live experience (maths dictates that you’ve seen them sixteen, seventeen times, but not for many a year. Prolapse split at the turn of the millennium. They went off to do grown up things – like the rest of us). And because there’s four acts on stage, a strict 11pm curfew, and Mogwai’s set is that 90 minutes experience, it means that the band you’ve come to see are only on for half an hour. Sometimes life is not fair, and words about music only cover half of the story. Reviewing Mogwai, and it’s a tricky, complex endeavour, such are the textures and undercurrents at play. ‘Mogwai Fears Satan’, and it’s impervious. Perfectly synchronised to the acoustical nous of the Barrowland Ballroom (I genuinely can’t think of a finer venue – although the choice of beers could do with a revamp; Tennents is not the future). ‘Black Spider’ is such the poised opener. ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’, ‘Teenage Exorcists’, and ‘R U Still In 2 It’ – the latter with Aidan Moffat providing the guest turn – and yes, this is a Mogwai gig.
The problem, however (and it’s not necessarily a problem; more an inability on the author’s part to adequately detail events and emotions) is that Mogwai are a devout, cerebral proposition. The same can be said for Loop, this version a four piece, Robert Hampson still pretending to be a curmudgeon, but he’s wielding new material, hazy and gunmetal; this is a thing.
Yet where-as Pye Corner Audio’s set pings off ambient contours (he’s on at 7 sharp; it’s a little too early for this kind of buzz, especially as the venue’s only just opened and most of the punters are still down the pub), Loop and Mogwai preoccupied taxing synapses, Prolapse’s appearance – whilst essentially a cameo – is unencumbered joy. ‘Headless in a Beat Motel’, and it’s like they’ve never been away. Scruffy, contused, and very, very relevant; yes, that’s a smile I’m wearing, but more than this, it doesn’t feel like karaoke. A little more grizzled around the edges they may be (except for Linda Steelyard, who looks sensational), although we’re all a little more grizzled, these days. These days, and I eat huevos rancheros, drink malbec, and own records by The Band, Mogwai, Loop and Pye Corner Audio, none of which I did back when Prolapse were a going concern (except for the Loop LPs – that one I am guilty of). These days, and we’re all old enough to know better, only Mick Derrick is pulling Linda’s hair. They’re both prowling the stage like distressed bears in a cage. The triple guitars chime, ‘Visa for Violet and Van’ is a jiggering, messy mass, ‘Flex’ a mesh of zing and zang, and suddenly I’m back in the ‘90’s (only a decent 1990’s; none of that hackneyed, Chris Evans-sponsored nostalgia here). ‘Killing the Bland’, and I have a huge fucking smile on my chops.
Both Mogwai and Loop, and there’s a monolithic, monumental edge to their sound. Prolapse, and they’re chipping away at things with a chisel.