Music Reviews
Zidane. A 21st Century Portrait. OST

Mogwai Zidane. A 21st Century Portrait. OST

(PIAS/Wall of Sound) Rating - 8/10

Mogwai have earned the right to have their albums considered events. And when the album in question has been so long a rumour, the project so keenly awaited, event status is guaranteed. This is by no means a criticism: this writer has spent a few years now busily trumpeting everything that this band of outlaws has produced, so much so that I guess if you're a regular reader you may suspect bias and look elsewhere. Feel free: if you expect calm objectivity in a review of the most single-minded, ethical, and devastatingly brilliant group, then I'm afraid you'll struggle to find it here. Mogwai have defined my relationship with music for the best part of a decade now, a decade that has seen them consistently redefine their mission, sound and reach to ever more ambitious ends.

It's been good for Mogwai fans lately. In the last couple of years we've had a retrospective, the monumental Peel session compilation Government Commissions, and the monstrous Mr Beast. In a way, Zidane feels like the flipside to both: a reflective piece to match the sturm und drang of the Beast and a voyage through their earlier styles à la the Peel tracks. Furthermore, with some of their, how shall we put it, harsher, less amicable edges shaved off for the movie goer, this works as an excellent introduction to the layman: part of an attempt to conquer the world once and for all, perhaps?

Everything that you'd hope for is here: Black Spider is full of the threatening menace you'd want to begin with, while Wake up and go berserk returns to the quiet, reflective moments of Ten Rapid. Terrific speech shows the 'Gwai opening up their sound: is it a Rhodes or a bagpipe in the background, I wonder, before 7:25 combines something that may even be an acoustic guitar - it's probably not though - with the subtle and insistent percussion that characterised Rock Action.

Fairly low key up until now: on the reverse the action really starts. You'll have heard Half time on the trailers even if you haven't seen the film; a piano line that comes over like Max Richter starring as Hannibal Lecter, then reprised on Time and a half. It's a perfect summary of Mogwai's project: intensity, power, musical coherence. And everything, always, has a purpose. Just to close, Black spider 2 features 25 minutes of perfectly crafted feedback and noise, a throwback to the Come on die young era.

Only at the end did the sense of this really come to me: in a career in which he won everything, in some cases several times, Zidane combined balletic grace with immense physical prowess. Football fans will remember the European Cup Final winning volley, the 360 dragbacks, and the towering headers that won the World Cup in the glare of the brightest of spotlights. He was also a political figure: the child of immigrants, hated by the racist National Front, taunted by opponents for this humble origins and quiet manner. Most people, of course will remember him for his final action on the football field: his demolition of Marco Matarazzi after one taunt too many, an inexplicable yet beautifully human act. Zidane casts the most voyeuristic of gazes onto the hero; the soundtrack sees the same relief thrown onto the band. As we see Zidane, we hear Mogwai: beautiful, political, savage. Truly great.