Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (4/5)

It seems as if ever since Mogwai released their second album there has been a coterie of fans demanding that the band remake their first album, Young Team. True, Young Team easily makes the running for one of the best album of the nineties, and it’s an undeniably strong first statement from a band. But as years have passed and Young Team has shrunk in the rearview mirror, it has become more difficult to understand those who seemingly want a Gus Van Sant style note for note remake of Mogwai’s debut. Hell, Young Team may be one of the best albums of the nineties, but the band’s catalogue has taken so many crooked back roads and ducked down so many foreboding alley ways that you would have a difficult time convincing me that Mogwai haven’t made a better album since 1997.

Instead of bowing to this small but vocal crowd of Young Team fanatics, Mogwai have instead chosen to produce a body of work that mimics evolution as it slithers, writhes and crawls from album to album. Mogwai may not have produced a radical shift in its sound over the years, but it has built albums that, even fifteen years into their career, still feel unique from one another. Mogwai’s newest, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, is no exception. But don’t let the typically glib title fool you. Instead of a metal thrash party, like Mr. Beast, Mogwai have turned in an album that plays with layers of texture. Album opener, “White Noise,” starts off small with ambient conversation and glittering guitar notes, but over the course of its five minutes it continues to pile on more and more sound until the entire enterprise threatens to fall under its own weight. Likewise, “Rano Pano” surrounds itself in a wall of fuzz that’s near impenetrable, even if the searing melody tries damn hard to break it down. Even some of the more driving songs are glazed in a blizzard of noise. “Mexican Grand Prix” sounds like the organic heart of krautrock’s metal body. It also marks the first time we’ve heard vocals on a Mogwai album since Mr. Beast, even if their encased in a Vocoder.

I’ve always thought that those clamoring for Young Team Pt. 2 are the same listeners who are more interested in the “next big thing” than they are in watching a band develop. They’re the same people who don’t realize that the greatest bands are much bigger than one album. That’s too bad because if they had been paying attention over the years then they would have noticed that even Mogwai’s ten or fifteen minute songs seem insignificant when compared to the big picture: seven sprawling albums cut across decades with not a single dud in sight.