Mogwai Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will(Subpop) Buy it from Insound
A sense of humour is a useful thing to have – while many of their more portentous contemporaries have fallen by the wayside, Mogwai continue to be surprisingly successful (it would have been madness when the Glaswegian lads released their first records to suggest that they'd evolve into a chart-bothering, festival headlining act, but here we are). And judging by the title of their latest record it looks like the band are being their old, playful selves.
What makes Hardcore Will Never Die... particularly amusing is that the music contained within sees Mogwai continuing at the quieter, more mature and measured pace that they've been working at since around the time of Rock Action. Even though they've named a track Death Rays, it's still a pleasant amble rather than the burst of aggressive noise such a title would suggest – half the fun of a Mogwai record lies in trying to work out how the amusing turns of phrase that make up the track titles relate to the music within (on the other hand Mexican Grand Prix may well be one of the most transparently titled efforts by the band – its Krautrock played on cheap synthesiser sound would have fitted easily onto the soundtrack of a driving game from the 80s or 90s).
Unfortunately, there's more creativity on show in the titles than there is in the music that bears them. There are slight changes in style here and there – George Square Thatcher Death Party's propulsive bass-line sounds like the band attempting emo (luckily choosing to substitute a vocoder for the genre's normally nasal tones) and Letters to the Metro is a melancholic waltz in the vein of Stanley Kubrick from their self-titled EP – but over the course of the album everything starts to sound the same. While it can't be said that there is an outright 'bad' song on the album, there aren't really many flashes of inspiration either, rather the band seem to written all of the songs by finding a good guitar or keyboard part and build on it gradually for about five minutes. In hindsight the flack the band got around the time of Come on Die Young for following the same quiet-loud-quiet-loud formula now seems particularly unfair – at least on that album they allowed the songs to develop at their own pace rather than cutting them off short, leading to the occasional surprise and the odd moment of overpowering emotion (the last time the band managed to pull off the rage that they used to do so well was on Happy Songs for Happy People's Ratts of the Capital).
Hardcore... may be their most consistent album for a while but any of its tracks would have fitted perfectly on its predecessors Mr Beast or The Hawk is Howling. Although it's ponderous nature didn't win over many admirers their soundtrack to the documentary on Zidane marked the last time that Mogwai came up with something adventurous and inventive. Perhaps the band should follow that album's example and try and engage with the outside world rather than just with their instruments, even if it leads to routes that are more obscure (other film soundtracks) or even unpalatable (concept albums) it would most likely sound more vital than the pretty and polite water treading that they're doing here.12 February, 2011 - 11:53 — Mark Davison