(All Album Reviews by maribor)
Mogwai have been at the forefront of the post rock movement ever since the release of their first album in 1997 and are rightly considered one of the fathers of this genre. Although the last few albums have seen them lose some of the rougher edges of the first few albums, they have only refined their craft and song-writing skills. This year sees the release of their new album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.
Although there’s really nothing particularly hardcore about their latest endeavor, the title could imply a shift away from more traditional post rock to the discovery of new musical landscapes, something that must surely not be a novelty for them.
The album starts off in typical Mogwai fashion from the last few albums – beautiful guitar melodies that build up with the addition of instruments, power and dynamics. However, already the second number shows that Mogwai aren’t entrenched in their post rock tendencies. “Mexican Grand Prix” shows Mogwai branching out into more electro pop rock territory – and doing an excellent job of it. They repeat this deviation on several occasions, as if to show us they’re not a one-trick pony.
I suppose what separates Mogwai from the usual bunch of post rock wannabes is their careful attention to detail, in particular when it comes to melody. They don’t just create an atmosphere and top it off with some power riffs for impact. They have an actual knack for creating beautiful, well-crafted passages, much like Sigur Ros, but much more condensed. They appear to be very much in touch with their pop sensibilities. Another unique characteristic of their sound is the atmospheres they create. Your run-of-the-mill post rock band will have you reaching for the razor blade with its doom and gloom atmosphere, but Mogwai can actually be cheerful, if that’s the right word to use for a post rock band. They can be as sinister and intense as the next band, but they don’t shove it in your face. They prefer to mix it up with lighter motifs from the rock and pop world. One moment they can be wistful, the next dark and the next even merry and fun. Nothing is beyond them. These thematic distinctions are most distinctly felt between the first two tracks, with “White Noise” being rather gloomy and full of melancholy, while “Mexican Grand Prix” actually brings on feelings of joy and happiness.
The album sees Barry Burns using keyboards more often than on previous albums, although the guitar wall of sound is still the prevalent factor in their music. The keyboard lines do get their fair share of lead melodies, which gives the album much more versatility. The use of vocals is, like on previous efforts, minimal and when used, it seems more for effect than anything else, as an additional instrument. The rhythm section is strong as always – not flashy but highly useful and effective.
Mogwai have definitely created another fine album with Hardcore. It’s perhaps not as intense and dark as some post rock fans would like it to be, but that’s its defining characteristic, the element that sets it apart from the crowd. Post rock has become stuck in a rut lately, but it’s great to see at least some artists aren’t resting on their laurels. Mogwai are actually making an effort to evolve and progress, and I think Hardcore is the perfect proof of this. Highly recommended!
8.5 out of 10.
Originally published at http://www.therocktologist.com