Live-album/concert-film combos tend to mark certain memorable occasions: significant anniversaries, a special performance in a historic venue or a massive world tour with an obscenely expensive stage show. Mogwai's first live package-- a concert recording, Special Moves, and a DVD companion, Burning, with a different tracklist-- does not adhere to any of the above criteria. On the surface, it's simply a document of a band in their 14th year, touring behind their least remarkable album to date-- and as far as mythic locations go, the Music Hall of Williamsburg ain't exactly Pompeii.
Live albums are often troublesome things, not for Mogwai As fans of the group will attest, there’s nothing quite like experiencing Mogwai in a live setting and while ‘Special Moves’ might never fully capture that sheer weight of sound, it nevertheless represents a hugely impressive live document (even without ‘Burning’, the accompanying DVD). Indeed, for those who miss the stripped back aesthetic of ‘Young Team’, the unadorned ferocity of newer efforts such as ‘Friend Of Night’ – no longer buffed with studio sheen – should come as a welcome surprise. And let’s fact it, no matter how many versions of ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ you might have heard, it never fails to raise goosebumps… .
For a band whose epic compositions and dramatic dynamics play so well in concert, it's somewhat surprising that Mogwai didn’t release an official live album until 2010's Special Moves. For fans who have seen the band live and novices alike, the set was worth the wait. Recorded at one of the band's 2009 Brooklyn shows, Special Moves is beautifully mixed, balancing all of their onstage elements carefully while capturing the sheer power of their concerts; there’s also just enough audience noise to remind listeners that they’re playing in front of a devoted crowd.
With much of Mogwai’s recent output having fallen uncharacteristically flat, one could be forgiven for thinking that this release, a live album and DVD set, signals the once-great band finally running out of ideas. Yet while Special Moves/Burning offers nothing in the way of new material, it serves as a timely reminder of Mogwai’s immense talent and eternal ability to inspire. All footage is culled from April 2009’s three-night stand in Brooklyn, but only a handful of tracks overlap both discs.
How many people have walked out of great concerts saying something like, “Wow, I wish they’d make a live album”? The perverse, hidden truth of that idea is that no live album can ever live up to the experience that just impressed you so much. Live albums work as souvenirs for the faithful and sometimes as introductions for the novice. But anyone who has seen Mogwai live and had the top of his head peeled off by its rendition of “Mogwai Fear Satan”, anyone who left that concert wishing that Mogwai’s studio albums lived up to the sheer furious Ragnarok of the band’s live presence is exactly the kind of person most likely to find Special Moves a bit underwhelming.
Special Moves CD: 7. 0/10Burning DVD: 7. 9/10 Release Date: August 24Directors: Vincent Moon, Nathanaël Le ScouarnecWriters: Le Scouarnec, Antoine LaurentCinematographers: Moon, Le Scouarnec, LaurentStarring: Dominic Aitchison, Stuart Braithwaite, Martin Bulloch, Barry Burns, John CummingsStudio: Temporary Areas/Rock Action A high-volume, post-rock primer At the start of their first full-length, Mogwai provides a fan testimonial and turns it into a mission statement: “If the stars had a sound, it would sound like this.
The mighty Scottish instrumentalists recorded live in Brooklyn. Noel Gardner 2010 It’s mildly surprising to realise that Special Moves is the first live album Mogwai have released in their 14-year lifespan, discounting radio session collection Government Commissions. Certainly, much of the reputation they garnered back in the late 90s, when they were a youthful squad of Glaswegian miscreants, was based on their live performances, and people’s hyperbolic reports thereafter.