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The Big Dig

This is the trick, then. The first song starts, jerks about a bit, finds a slightly awkward groove to irritate with, and proceeds to change its mind...

The Big Dig

7 / 10 This is the trick, then. The first song starts, jerks about a bit, finds a slightly awkward groove to irritate with, and proceeds to change its mind about where it's going a few times. Finally, it establishes a staunch dignity beyond the dithering. You think it'll get on your nerves, but it ends up somewhere much more stimulating.

/img/BillyMahoney699.jpg Neatly enough, that's the story of Billy Mahonie, too. When they began playing shows in London just over a year ago, Mahonie appeared to be a calculated amalgam of post-rock subsets, an efficient if slightly ludicrous mixture of Mogwai's drama and thunder, the nimble nouveau-prog of Trans-Am and, inevitably, Slint's sombre geometry.

They moved, however, with bewildering speed, an arty blaze of seven-inch singles and loud and idiosyncratic gigs. For a while, notably on 'Are We Rolling?', they dealt in modified metal, proving the theory that the post-rock generation consisted of heavy metal kids grown up with avant-garde aspirations.

Now, they've really sorted themselves out. 'The Big Dig' is still unavoidably of a type - no vocals, serpentine structures, multiple plangent bass action. But there's a defined character here, too, a fluid, rustic ambience underpinning the meanders and a playfulness that defuses lame and easy accusations of po-faced fretwanking. So the likes of 'William Derbyshire' and 'Drago' are bewitching exercises in how to tease emotion and melody out of rigorous structure - like Aerial M - that manage to sound both complicated and relaxed. Like trying to be profound on a hot day in a field, and very nearly succeeding, broadly.

It's by no means perfect, of course. The occasional avoidance of 'proper' rock crunch is a little too contrived. And the wah-wah finale of the otherwise entrancing 'Glenda' has a whiff of adolescent muso dabbling about it.

Considering the distance they've travelled at such creative velocity, however, these are minor quibbles. Keep up the phenomenal evolutionary rate and who knows where Billy Mahonie could be in a year. 'The Big Dig' ends beautifully: maybe, just maybe, they will too.

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