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Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

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Artist: Mogwai

Album: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Feb. 14, 2011

Mr. Beast has settled again. You know, Mogwai have been a more interesting band since Happy Songs for Happy People than people tend to give them credit for. There was the career highlights-collecting Government Commissions: BBC Sessions 1996-2003 that, though largely ineffective, at least demonstrated what was lost between a record and their live show without the visuals. Then came what for all intents and purposes was the band’s “pop” album, 2006’s Mr. Beast. This tweaked the typical post-rock template, streamlining it to the point that a song which otherwise might’ve taken eight minutes now took less than four (“Glasgow Mega-Snake” the alpha and omega of this approach). The debate over whether reducing the tension also reduces the release was a valid one, but there was no doubt over the lack of down time. It held your attention.

It’s really only with their most recent albums that Mogwai have felt noticeably complacent, content to play some loud-quiet-loud post-rock and slap a funny title on it. Starting with the subdued soundtrack for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait and continuing through The Hawk is Howling and their most recent concert album/DVD, Special Moves, the Scottish quintet at last seemed to be content retreading ground without adding or adjusting anything except the quality of the production.

So it continues with Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, an album with no missteps … because every trick that Mogwai has used in the past is present in almost comically balanced fashion. There are the crunchy rock-on-overdrive loud songs (“Rano Pano,” “San Pedro”), a contemplative quiet song smack dab in the middle of the tracklist (“Letters to the Metro”), the vocal ones (“Mexican Grand Prix” early, “George Square Thatcher Death Party” late), and the songs that go from contemplative quiet to crunchy rock-on-overdrive (everything else). They’ve brought Young Team producer Paul Savage back, but this seems like a hollow gesture on the band’s part: Mogwai knows what it wants to sound like better than anyone else. Savage is as much a helpless accomplice as a guiding force.

The deluxe version of this album and the download code that comes with the double-LP includes the 23-minute “Music for a Forgotten Future (The Singing Mountain)” that was recorded for Douglas Gordon and Olaf Nicolai’s “Monument for a Forgotten Future” installation in Essen last year. Even this seems like a rehash, however: I haven’t heard it yet, but if it’s music for an installation, it’s in Zidane territory; if it’s Mogwai doing Mogwai, it’s “My Father My King.” They can’t win.

The most comforting thing for them, then, is that they don’t need to. Who would argue that Mogwai has anything to prove at this point? They not only redefined post-rock in the late ’90s, but have rightfully gained a loyal following through consistently awe-inspiring live shows, spawned legions of imitators, and helped keep pedal FX companies in business almost singlehandedly. “Serious guitar music” will always be attractive to people. Those three words are the primordial muck from which Mogwai arose, and its enduring appeal is the true guiding force which makes this band so revered even when they’re flogging the same one-dimensional ideas over and over and over. For this band, we are all helpless accomplices in the seriousness of their rock action. Everything else is but laughs over late-night pints.

By Patrick Masterson

Other Reviews of Mogwai

Happy Songs for Happy People

Government Commissions: BBC Sessions, 1996-2003

Mr. Beast

Young Team (Remastered)

The Hawk is Howling

Special Moves

Earth Division

Read More

View all articles by Patrick Masterson

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