“Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” – ‘Mogwai’ [Joint Review]
“Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” is testament enough that after fifteen years, Scottish post-rock band ‘Mogwai’ can still compose an album wrought with sophistication, yet uphold its roots in pop-culture and society. My introduction to the style that is ‘Mogwai’ began with “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” under the auspiciously-titled album “The Hawk Is Howling”: and for a newbie-Doors fan, I’m still slightly unimpressed. Nevertheless, it held me with utter captivation: “Danphe And The Brain”, “Batcat” – but most especially, “King’s Meadow”. Pioneers of the post-rock genre themselves, they remain the core, underlying feature behind any band hailing from this underestimated creed or flouting superlative instrumental, post-rock integrity.
Two years post-Hawk, “Hardcore…” evokes similar, yet distinctively heavier elements to its construction. Though not ‘RATM’ or ‘QOTSA’ in overall appearance, “Hardcore’s…” louder, grittier moments are subsequently interspersed with softer, Hawk-like configurations: Batcat-heavy Meadow-soft. Also considerably more vocal than “Hawk…”, “Hardcore…” interrupts its instrumental displays with snippets of dialogue, lyrics and vocal-SFX. And while these are usually obscured, via vox, distortion or the music itself, “Hardcore…” amalgamates older facets of ‘Mogwai’ with new, to form a successful hybridisation.
Newcomers to ‘Mogwai’ should [in hindsight] backtrack to their early beginnings: simply because their style has developed so much over the years that their earlier material is sometimes indistinguishable from their later, noughties productions. And if you’re just too impatient – unwilling to wade through all that history [like I was...] – expect to find an assortment of electrical/acoustical instrumentation; piano, drum-kit percussion, distorted electric-guitar and xylophones quaint enough to lullaby even the diehard-hardcore to sleep. If “Hardcore…” ain’t for you, fall in love with “Hawk…” and start all over: somehow, ‘Mogwai’ manages to carry over instrumental vibes from one album to the next, so you’re bound to hear some semblance with a prior context. If still unsure, check out “(The) Slowest Runner (In All The World)” or even “Bricoleur”: that should sharpen those horizons…
Shy an hour, “Hardcore…” is as long as it feels: replay-value is simply off the charts. Like with all instrumental music, there’s plenty to get lost in and plenty to come back to. It’s difficult to pinpoint individual tracks within “Hardcore…” because of the aforementioned “vibes”; sometimes, you feel like you’re listening to the same song. Over and over again, even though it’s changing. This effect principally featured in “Hawk…” and isn’t altogether dead in “Hardcore…” It’s a very disconcerting feeling, and usually a distinctive riff or instance of a chorus will shake it loose. Even so, still pretty cool. Track-length hasn’t changed much: on average, it floats around the 4-5-minute mark, with a few 6s, and a finale-8.
“Death Rays” opens for “Hardcore…” with the understated appearance of tympanic percussion, vibrating synth and mellowing organ: contrary to any explosive tendencies usually indicative of hardcore. Instruments slowly but surely trickle in – keyboard, bass, guitar – before delivering the vital crescendo that has been ‘Mogwai’s’ styled signature-chorus. A clamouring of noise relatively devoid of speed, yet nonetheless vibrant and displacing. Dipping in and out of sound, like the valleys and troughs of a wave, “Death Rays” is the hook for us to follow – “George Square Thatcher Death Party” is the hardcore-bait. “George…” sees the first incarnation of lyrics, delivered with a Jamiroquai-reminiscent vox. Interwoven deep within the thrashing percussion and scratch-scrape guitar, words of any kind are simply lost. “How To Be A Werewolf” sort of follows-suit in the same manner, save vocalisations: and in the shape of a bell, the first real sole-instrumental hardcore track.
“Letters To The Metro” feels like a King’s-Meadow-Batcat amalgam. Swaying back and forth at the speed of a gentle waltz, its relaxed inclination superbly displaces any leftover, hardcore proclivities. Easily my favourite off the entire album. Then “Mexican Grand Prix” bursts into life with an electric opening. Its uncharacteristic, newfound synth-expression smacks of anything but ‘Mogwai’, with its full-fledged lyrics and upbeat sensation. An amazing crescendo builds at 3:23; the high-end xylophone is to-die for. Midway through the album, any hardcore ruts are effortlessly shaken off in preparation for “Rano Pano”, perhaps “Hardcore’s…” grainiest, most abrasive track. The manifestation of coarse, static sludge compounds an already feedback-laden track both raw and immensely powerful. If hardcore were to have a send-off…
“San Pedro”, “Too Raging To Cheers” and “White Noise” finally yield finale-track “You’re Lionel Richie” with an altogether softer opening, compared to its predecessors. An unintelligible voice permeates a resounding guitar solo before entering the slow trudge towards crescendo at 1:05. The instruments play off one another before dying away for a second, brief interlude – the calm before the choral explosion. It’s like running up a hill, getting a second wind; the music is electrified, and one feels burning. Then, at the summit: pause, reflection. Instruments die away slowly as the pulse calms and the blood-rush ends.
As an album, “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” certainly delivers – as a statement, I’m not so sure. But with its persuasive selection of finely-crafted, thoroughly enjoyable material, one way or another, we’re all converts by the end…
Reviewer’s Pick: “Letters To The Metro”
Stand-out Tracks: All
The Enantiomorphic God