Mogwai - 'Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will' (UK Release: 14 Feb '11)
The Beatles or Rolling Stones? The Clash or The Sex Pistols? Oasis or Blur? Radiohead or Mogwai? Well, Mogwai, obviously.
When Mogwai’s 'Happy Songs For Happy People' came out in 2003 on the same day as Radiohead’s 'Hail To The Thief', that particular contest was settled definitively. Since then Mogwai have continued to improve and develop, with the 'Zidane – A 21st Century Portrait' film soundtrack and last year’s film and live album, 'Special Moves' being particular recent highlights.
The more I have listened to Mogwai, the more I have come to appreciate the drumming of Martin Bulloch– he really is a tremendous drummer and the foundation of everything they do, and he is right to the fore (and in terrific form) on this new album.
Opener 'White Noise' is nothing of the sort, of course, and it is propelled by thumping drums, with chiming keyboards and, finally, soaring guitar. Adding and subtracting layers is a hallmark of Mogwai’s music, but 'White Noise' and next track 'Mexican Grand Prix' are heavily electro influenced – the latter song even has vocals (although they are not obviously about the Mexican Grand Prix) and some fine atmospheric violin playing from guest Luke Sutherland, and both songs stretch their musical boundaries in a very positive way.
The guitars are back on third song 'Rano Pano', which isn’t exactly my favourite song on the album, but 'Death Rays', which follows, just might be. Crisp drumming, swirling organ, beautifully articulated guitars – it’s really the sound of a super-confident band making outstanding music. And from here on, they’re in the groove on an album that sounds like Mogwai know where they want to go and they certainly know how to get there. Other personal highlights are 'Too Raging To Cheers' and the lengthy 'You’re Lionel Ritchie'.
But it’s all good, as I think I am wont to say. In the end, I guess how much you like the album depends on whether you connect with the Mogwai proposition, which is pretty well established – mostly instrumental music using the elements over which they have by now reached an impressive mastery.
For myself, when I started writing for this blog, I imagined that in time I would maybe get to attend one of those special album previews at, say, Abbey Road Studios where the press is brought in to hear the new album played on a massive sound system, there are white leather sofas, designer drugs and beautiful people, and a stretch limo takes you there and, eventually, home. Well sad to say it hasn’t happened yet, but if it did I can’t think of a band I would rather invite me to NW8 than Mogwai.
MP3 DOWNLOAD: Mogwai - San Pedro
MP3 DOWNLOAD: Mogwai - Rano Pano
'Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will' can be purchased in mp3 format for just £3.99 at amazon.co.uk. For US readers, it is available to pre-order at Sub Pop.