by Mike Corrigan and Ted S. McGregor Jr. & r & & r & Mogwai & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & Mr. Beast & lt;/a & 3 1/2 STARS & r & Guitar rock will never die -- so long as there are fiercely distinctive bands like Mogwai out there investing the necessary time and care to create breathtakingly new six-string textures for modern brains. Mr. Beast, the band's fifth studio release, represents an additional step away from the expansion and sonic overload of its debut into the tighter confines and more subtle execution that typify the Glasgow gang's latter-day leanings. The album begins demurely enough, with a simple, beguiling piano melody that eventually swells to tsunami force as the amps power up.

And oh, don't fret, old fans, because there's plenty of pure, shameless wonk, too (I'm looking at you, "Glasgow Mega-Snake"), that serves mainly to peel the paint from the walls. Yet individually and en masse, the songs on Mr. Beast reveal a band scheming to harness its more indulgent tendencies -- without relinquishing any of its defining power. Success should be spectacular. -- Mike Corrigan

Billy Bragg & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & Brewing Up With Billy Bragg & lt;/a & 4 STARS & r & Most people know about Billy Bragg from his collaborations with Wilco, but I knew him back when he was an angry young socialist without a band. (Isn't a solo socialist kind of an oxymoron?) One of my favorite albums of all time is Brewing Up With Billy Bragg, now out as a remastered reissue, with a second bonus disc. With a couple exceptions, this record is nothing more than an electric guitar, an amp and Bragg's cockneyed voice. In 1984, he was just the kind of protest singer we could use more of today -- railing for labor rights, and against big media, war and pornography.

But Bragg's got a soft spot, too, and "The Saturday Boy" is bittersweet medicine for anyone who ever needed "a dictionary to look up the meaning of 'unrequited.'" The bonus CD has some stuff I'd heard, and other stuff I had not, like a tepid cover of Stones' "The Last Time" and the moody "Won't Talk About It." Yep Roc Records has finally given this little gem the treatment it deserves. -- Ted S. McGregor Jr.

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