Mogwai

Government Commissions (BBC Sessions 1996-2003) (Matador)

If you've never been shaken to the core at a Mogwai show, the perfect consolation is Government Commissions, an hour-plus survey culled from the band's six best albums, recorded live for the BBC. While a foreign concept here, governmental support of art and culture is common elsewhere, with institutions rather than record labels functioning as patron and creative crucible. Arbited by radio legends John Peel (R.I.P.) and Steve Lamacq, BBC's "sessions" are crisp, innovative, and intimate. They democratize the live music experience and, on Government Commissions, capture the improvisation and synchronicity of Mogwai live without rehashing the past.

Instead, the Glaswegian rockers -- whose brusqueness is often attributed to their hometown's urban rawness -- exhibit further maturation. "Hunted by a Freak" from 2003's Happy Songs for Happy People,kicks things off with vocals digitally obscured of their humanity. "New Paths to Helicon" parts 1 and 2, from the early singles compilation Ten Rapid, are represented in all their shimmering beauty and swell with longing, absent the fury unleashed on subsequent records. Young Team's whopping 1812 minute "Like Herod" is indicative of the soft-loud-soft formula in extended time. For a band whose reputed goal was to be the loudest in the world, on Government Commissions, Mogwai proves risking greater artistry reaps greater reward.

 
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