33.3; Mogwai, Come on Die Young

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Come on Die Young
by Sarah Zupko
PopMatters Editor & Publisher


More often than not, instrumental rock is not terribly interesting—some hideous 70s prog-rock experiments spring to mind. Fortunately 33.3 possesses the instrumental chops and the composing talent to make an all-instrumental record not only interesting, but enjoyable. The three musicians of 33.3 are finishing up master’s degrees in art at Yale, and this background has clearly influenced a sound that is best described as “chamber pop.” Relying exclusively on actual instruments (no samplers or computers in earshot) that include the inspired cello playing of Dominique Davison, 33.3 creates a complex sound the hard way—composing rich textures and arrangements.

Touted in the U.K. as the brightest hope for “post rock,” Mogwai is the latest in a stream of Glaswegian bands hitting American shores this year. However, this crew couldn’t be more different from the Delgados and Bis. Interspersing spoken word samples with understated vocals, Mogwai is by and large an instrumental group. Favoring gentle dynamics and atypical song structures, they are hard to classify—although shades of Pink Floyd waft through on occasion, and every so often I feel as if I’m listening to a really, really mellow version of Radiohead. With a theme and variations approach, Mogwai’s music is almost classical in places, but always manages to avoid any shades of prog-rock pomposity. That said, Mogwai could use a bit more variation and contrast over the course of the full album. Individual songs are strong, but the entire album could use a touch more development. Nevertheless, the band’s ambition is admirable, and it has staked out a promising musical terrain for the future.

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