By now, it’s comforting to know what we can expect in a new Mogwai effort: the rising tension, the static release, the occasional stab at mumbled lyrics. So, when you pick up Mogwai’s latest release (presuming you’re still physically grappling with music at all these days), you can admire its striking cover photo of New York City from a strangely alien view on the Hudson, and you can safely make the purchase knowing Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is a solid, if sometimes predictable, addition to the growing Mogwai canon.
“White Noise” makes for a smart opener. It sounds like a flower slowly unfurling, radiant, eventually exposing a thorn or two to glisten in the sun. It’s a grower, typical of Mogwai’s songs, but idiosyncratic enough to sound fresh, slightly pungent. Then, “Mexican Grand Prix” pulls into view. The robotic, stereophonic vocals, which soon break in, match the propulsive pace of the song, offering a few minimalist lyrics for those who demand such things, while really serving simply as texture, atmosphere. They also sound like something The Cars might’ve conjured up 30 years ago after partying with Kraftwerk – and not in a bad way. Indeed, it’s a funky (dare I use the “f” word in regards to Mogwai?) album highlight. Later, “George Square Thatcher Death Party” also features a stab at vocoded vocals. At 3:59, it’s not particularly long for a Mogwai song; nor does it prove particularly memorable. “How to Be a Werewolf” follows that, and it drifts along with a thudding beat, but even as it grows in intensity, it never pounces to sink its teeth in either. Mogwai phoning it in, I’m afraid. Slightly more compelling is “Too Raging to Cheers” which follows, bearing a lilting, vaguely Eastern vibe to it.
Additional highlights include “Rano Pano,” which falls into your music-which-could-appear-in-a-zombie-movie-chase-scene category, which is a good thing, since Danny Boyle probably has another installment of 28 Days Later in the works. Despite its resident, rising tension, however, “Rano Pano” maintains a subtle injection of levity, which may disqualify it from appearing in any horror movie soundtracks.”Death Rays” follows that and strolls through almost pastoral, faintly regal territory, chiming along before what sounds like organ. Those two songs, along with the more electrifying, if somewhat attenuated “San Pedro,” form a solid, more typically instrumental core for the album. “Letters to the Metro” rounds out this center and sounds incredibly delicate and ephemeral, romantic even, compared to so much of the Glasgow-based lads’ more visceral handiwork. If some fans find this center stretch of the album a little mushy, it’s still clear evidence that the band remains willing to explore new directions.
As for the effort’s closer, fans will know not to expect “You’re Lionel Ritchie” to sound nearly as saccharine as anything the esteemed Mr. Ritchie has ever concocted. Instead, it opens with some mumbled ramblings, not unlike the sampled street conversation you’d hear backgrounding a composition by Mogwai’s post-rock brethren Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Then, the tune slips into a slow, slinky rhythm of building guitars against light drumming, until, at precisely four minutes in, the heavier guitarwork breaks through forming the cloud of crunchy static you always knew was coming.Visit: Mogwai | Sub Pop
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