Mogwai – [Album]

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Not many bands can say that they're able to simultaneously utilize a set of sounds that their fans will recognize and appreciate while also restructuring that sound into something new and different, but Mogwai is able to make such a claim. Since first appearing in 1997, Mogwai has had the luxury of crossing generic boundaries with impunity as they try out different sounds and ideas at their whim, and are only ever met with acceptance from both fans and critics. How's it done? In Mogwai's case, the band simply creates and releases its' material with little or no explanation; no one questions it because each release beams with both solid and confident performances, thereby giving the impression that everything has been meticulously mapped out and orchestrated with phenomenal care by the band's members. Whether that's actually the case is irrelevant; if the quality each album is actually just a happy accident, who cares? The results still sound good, different from the last offering and leaves the finer points to a listener's imagination.

Mogwai's seventh album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, continues in the band's understatedly innovative tradition – this time by massaging more caustic textures into the band's methodical and ambient mix and even including a few vocals for some new and tantalizing flavor. Those alterations are perfectly evident from the moment “White Noise” wedges the door open at the beginning of the record with some unintelligible dialogue before the band begins laying down some instrumental frost to further assist in sending the chills of change up the spines of listeners. Relying on a solid platform of synths supplied by Barry Burns, guitarists John Cummings and Stuart Braithwaite erect cold spikes of distorted guitar, but bury them in the mix of the song so that they help to reinforce it, but they're never allowed to pierce through into the foreground; like a perfectly calm northern lake, “White Noise” remains serene.

The serenity of “White Noise” starts to get troubled as soon as “Mexican Grand Prix” rolls forward though, as an electronic click track violates the silence and guest performer Luke Sutherland turns Mogwai on its' head with a full lyric sheet (gasp!) and a spry danceable beat. Longtime fans will recoil initially at the sudden disturbances to form that “Mexican Grand Prix” represents, but the surprise smooths over quickly and listeners will find themselves grateful for the change – no matter how temporary it might be.

With the poles of Hardcore Will Never Die… set by the album's first two tracks, Mogwai spends the next eight working to flesh out the world that should appear between them. First, the band introduces a crackling, distorted guitar to “Rano Pano” that sounds more rockist than anything they've tried previously, and then smooths  over again with the panoramic keys of “Death Rays.” As the record progresses, other interesting sounds and ideas present themselves; there are epic moments like “Too Raging To Cheers” and moments of disarming candor and gentility (“Letters To The Metro”) and even warhorse rockers like “San Pedro” (which somehow actually sounds like a tribute to Mike Watt without going so far as to plainly or verbally point it out) which each add more aural color to the basic instrumental framework and change the emotional subtext every time they do so.

Such movements are fairly unlike those that most instrumental records make. Usually, the guiding principles of an instrumental record are to establish the vibe that will dominate the proceedings first, and then only occasionally add extra sounds for “wow” factor, but that isn't the case at all here. In listening, what Mogwai establish early on if a give-and-take, build-and-relief structure that's common among rock and pop records, but not often found in instrumentals because rock records usually employ a singer. That omission here might come off as potentially detrimental (it would certainly explain why one song does have a singer) but, as it plays out, Mogwai proves that captivating and engaging rock records can be made without necessarily having something so trite as a figurehead up front for listeners to focus on. As the title implies, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is a bold and fearless album that tests the limits of what rock is and isn't but, even better, it never falters or flops; the album is solid and engaging all the way through.



Mogwai – “San Pedro” – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Mogwai – “Rano Pano” – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will


Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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