A few months back, my friends got to see Mogwai perform down in Lawrence, Kansas. When they returned, they brought back with them a wonderful story. It was of a band somehow turned into pure sound, a sound that grew with each effects pedal and wail of feedback. At first, what they said seemed too fantastic to be true. A sound as massive as the one they described exists only in theory (or government experiments). But the look on their faces told me otherwise, and having listened to My Father My King, I believe them.
The first time I ever read about Mogwai, the reviewer had trouble putting into words the amount of pure sound this band could create. And that’s how it is with My Father My King. On the surface, it’s Mogwai’s reworking of an ancient Hebrew hymn. While middle-eastern melodies do drift throughout the song’s 20 minutes, it’s really just an exercise in how many layers of guitars, feedback, squawking violins, and pounding drums Mogwai can pile on without breaking the song’s back. Yes, there are those quiet, meditative moments, but they’re soon swallowed up by all hell breaking loose.
To be honest, it gets a little tedious at times; the last four minutes are nothing but the sounds of Mogwai’s amps trying to recover. I’ll even go out on a limb and call it a bit precocious (I can already hear my friends’ protests); when first listening to it, there were times when I fully expected Stuart Braithwaite to pull a shredding solo on me.
You can’t deny Mogwai’s talent for wreaking devastation with their instruments. But compared to the subtle, emotional beauty of Rock Action, My Father My King feels like a sledgehammer. It fails to move or comfort me the way that songs like “Take Me Somewhere Nice” or “O I Sleep” can. I can already tell you that 6 months from now, I’ll still be reaching for Rock Action while My Father My King just becomes an extremely loud footnote.