Scottish shoe-gaze veterans, Mogwai stake an early claim for album title of the year with their seventh LP, “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” which gets its US release on February 15. The Glaswegian five-piece have teamed up with stellar American label, Sub Pop, to handle stateside promotion and distribution. The new alliance with the indie powerhouse is a savvy one and is the latest in a long line of envelope-pushing signings for the label (Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, No Age, etc).
The new release signals the beginning of a new chapter for Mogwai, in terms of the way they do business over the pond. On the record itself, however, the band has stuck to the tried and tested formulas that have awarded them a long and respectable career so far. Once again, the band has enlisted the skillful help of producer, Paul Savage who manned the boards on Mog’s landmark debut “Young Team.” The driving and dreamy sound that has been built throughout the band’s history remains and continues to develop on “Hardcore.” As a result, Mogwai are able to create an enveloping, instrumental soundscape that is unlikely to be heard from anyone else in 2011.
The album’s title, the lack of lyrical content, and the “post-rock” genre specification that it will receive suggest a challengingly loud and sludge-filled record. In actuality, rather than pulling listeners down into a stagnant pit of obnoxiously over-used reverb and grating lo-fi noise, Mogwai are proponents of progression and power. The album opener, “White Noise,” with its uplifting keys and clashing percussion seems to plant the notion of a spontaneous and carefree road trip. By track two, “Mexican Grand Prix,” Mogwai have taken their exit and begun roaring towards a setting sun. True, there are times at which distorted riffs are maintained throughout an entire track. The leadoff single, “Rano Pano,” for example mashes along in a way that might blow the odd speaker, but the track doesn’t fail to open up into a more layered composition by it’s end.
Some of the most delicate moments on the record appear on two of its most ominously named songs. “Death Rays” and “How to be a Werewolf” both run over six minutes in length build upon the soft, twinkling guitars that begin them. “Death Rays,” in particular reaches a triumphant, organ infused climax that could fit into final act of many a film score aptly. As well as having the ability to produce drawn out and swaying slices of shoe-gaze, on “Hardcore,” the Scotch quintet also demonstrate that they can pack together the odd three and half minutes of fairly straight up rock and roll. “San Pedro,” which is now available as a free download, has the feel of a 90s Brit-rock hit, though without the comfort of a chorus to drink and sing along to.
As might be expected from a band that once released a twenty-seven minute, one track B-side, “Hardcore Never Dies, But You Will” ends with a sample and pedal heavy epic final track. The closing song is entitled “You’re Lionel Richie” and like the bold title of the album and the fantastically off-the-wall video for “Rano Pano” (fans of “Weird Science” see YouTube now) suggest; after almost fifteen years of doing their own thing and doing it well, Mogwai remain, awesomely, original.