The National, ‘Sorrow’ from High Violet. Today’s song for 2011.
Twelve years into my Mogwai love affair and all I can really think to say to begin this piece is that their relevance and importance, to both me and to music in general, is as great as it ever was. Somehow, after all this time, they continue to push the boundaries of their genre. Continue to challenge their contemporaries. Continue to set a bench mark for others to strive towards.
How many artists can say that they are releasing their seventh proper studio album? (not to mention a number of EPs, the Zidane Soundtrack and some live releases too) How many artists are, once again, touring the world – for about 4/5 long months I think – probably to sold out venues? And how many, after all this time, can say that they are still going as strong as they ever were? That desire to never do anything unless it’s as good as it can be still appears to burn deep inside these Glasgow lads and drives them to consistently produce records of real and true quality. Whether you like Mogwai or not, you cannot fail to admire their staying power, relevance and importance in an industry that discards artists for fun.
Of previous album ‘The Hawk Is Howling’ author Ian Rankin said:
“There are no lyrics on this album, so all the potency, texture and variation of moods come from instruments alone”
Instrumental music will always challenge and confuse some people I guess. Many people need words to connect to, or make a piece of music work or seem relevant. Coming from a classical background I’d have to say that the presence of words is not as important to me. Don’t get me wrong, I do love words and lyrics but I tend to be moved more deeply by a performance on a instrument, or an arrangement, than I ever am by lyrics associated with a song. I am more likely to say that I love it when “the drums change here”, or “the guitar explodes here”, than I am to say “I like these lyrics.” There are of course exceptions to this but, for the most part, I love to immerse myself in the intricacies of instrumental music. What I love about Mogwai is that they take the same ideas involved in the composition of both a classical piece and a pop song and translate them onto the guitar, sprinkling the main instrument with a variety of musical accompaniments. Mood, tone, texture, pace and potency are all required and, more often than not, achieved by these Glasgow lads. For me, this might be their best record yet. But then such is their consistency that it is hard to decide.
What struck me first about ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’ is the fact that, more than any other Mogwai record to date, the mood and tone of the record is upbeat from the off and remains upbeat for the majority of the album. Tracks such as ‘Mexican Grand Prix’ and ‘San Pedro’ are as pulsating as anything ever before and there is a warmth and positivity to the music, which has not often been on show previously in Mogwai’s repertoire. There have been indications, but never a full on onslaught of warm fuzz as is present on this record. The darker, more sombre edges of previous releases are few and far between. This is something which immediately sucks you in because it’s a change of pace from other albums, a change of direction and tone. The band keeping it fresh and vital. It’s more instant than other records too, because of this. Or I think so. Take ‘George Square Thatcher Death Party’ as an example. It could easily be a “popular” tune if the band aren’t careful!
Let’s not get things wrong. The crunching guitars are still on show – the end of ‘Death Rays’, for example, in my mind, would be incredible live. However, there is something more subtle and controlled about this record. Less fury, more restraint, which not only makes the fury all the more furious when it arrives, but also helps retain the warmth that permeates this record. And it works. My god it works.
I love this record so much that I went HERE and bought the limited edition version, which comes on double vinyl, double cd, with a bonus ep, a t-shirt and artwork too. For fifty quid?? Now that’s value for money. ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’ is released on Rock Action in the UK on 14th February. You can and must check Mogwai out here. And catch them live in a country near you between now and May. Make sure you do, you will not be disappointed. Enjoy.