Mugstar: Axis – album review

Agitated Records
Out Now

Some bands just come across a bit better live. Is Mugstar one of them? LTW’s Chris Hearn has a few thoughts about that. 

So, once again, here I found myself faced with a band I had not heard of before…ever. So, I started to do a bit of internet research (is there any other kind?) and came across a video of them doing what they do live (see below next paragraph) and it just absolutely blew me away!

The reason I bring this video up is to show a bit of the weakness I find in their new album. To me, this video (for the title track from their Bethany Heart Star album) is incredible. When I listen to this new album, however, there seems to be something missing. Axis is a bit more constrained, not as chaotic and less intense, at least in 1s and 0s (live is a bit of a different story as you will see later on in this review).


Now, with that said, this is still a really great album. But, I suppose after seeing this video I believe that not only is this song better than the ones on the new album, but also that to truly appreciate what these guys are creating would be to see them live with full on volume and the complete visual experience.

For those of you who have not heard of Mugstar before this very moment, here is a bit of a rundown. They are from Liverpool and have been around since 2003. Looking over their discography/history, what do I see here? It’s a Peel Session from 2004. That’s pretty cool, no? They’ve got a few full lengths under their belt as well as a number of 7 inch singles, including one with Mudhoney. So, what label should we stick on these guys? Dear gawd, this is always the tough one, eh? Well, prog rock, I would say. It’s jammy/spacey/psychedelicy/electronicy. Does that help?

So, to the album we go. Everything kicks off nicely with the monotonous pounding of “Black Fountain” which sets the tone for the rest of the album. The songs are almost like loops of fairly dense, yet airy sound (does that even make sense??). Here they are, doing the song at a show in Paris, and despite the distortion of the audio recording, once again they impress me with their live show:


“Tangerina” has a space rock feel, with a metallic or tinny synth base, augmented by a good layer of rather feedback heavy guitar, mixed with spacy zings and bleeps. “In Earth” swirls around, again in a monotonous, loopy fashion, until it hits my favourite point in the whole album when the guitars get to their heaviest and most feedback laden. Another favourite moment comes at the end of “Upturnsidedown” where a little electronic wankery grabbed my attention and had me wishing for a bit more.

But really, there are all kinds of interesting sounds and ideas throughout this album. Again, it’s good, and I don’t mean to take away from that. But, when they are a bit looser and rawer (as live performances tend to be) they come across the best to my ears. So, yes, buy this album. It’s good. Ya, I made a small complaint. Big deal. In the end, it’s still an amazing album done by a great band who, I am convinced, would be amazing to see live.

You can find Mugstar on Facebook and twitter. Check out their official page as well.

All words by Chris Hearn, more writing by Chris on Louder Than War can be found here.

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Deep in the heart of Canada, on the north shore of frigid Lake Superior, is a town called Thunder Bay. That\'s where I am from. That\'s where I started to write. And that is where I started to discover music. Now, I\'m a married man with two boys. I still love music. I still go to shows. And I still visit Thunder Bay, even though I haven\'t lived there for many years. What will you find on my iPod? You\'ll find lot of Americana, classic country, heavy stuff, punk and plenty of “guilty pleasures”.


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