Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
, February 15th, 2011 06:19
It's tempting to surmise that the title of Mogwai's seventh album is a play on Tortoise's Millions Now Living Will Never Die, yet another attempt to distance themselves from that accursed post rock tag. For if there's one thing that's has characterised Mogwai in their decade and a half of racketeering, it's this kind of mischief making. We first encountered it in their earliest days when press-spun myth had the band pegged as Kappa-wearing hoodlums smuggling vodka across Europe in condoms rammed up their arses, via the infamous Blur=Shite t-shirts that were, wrongly, taken as a bitter gesture, to their ever-varied live sets that make Mogwai one of the finest bands to get out of one's gourd to.
All this ought to have kept them a breed apart from the post rock pigeonhole. For that was a movement that, from such fertile beginnings, became dour and insular as it reveled in its own sense of self-importance, creating contemplative and moralising symphonies interpreted for guitar, violin, and beard. Mogwai have always seemed to have too much of a good time for that, and Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will captures this spirit perfectly.
'Rano Pano' has one of those grating, punishing riffs that Mogwai do so well. This time around, it keeps getting distracted by electronic distortion, a method of moving their sound along that's deployed throughout. It is, like the concluding cod-epic sludge of 'You're Lionel Ritchie', a little daft. Or then there's the summery motorik that drives 'Mexican Grand Prix', and the understandably weary-sounding (given the title) 'Letters To The Metro'.
Elsewhere, and this is perhaps what has struck me most about this hugely enjoyable record, is a strange feeling that familiar tropes of sung music are being subverted to Mogwai's own ends: you feel like you could bellow along to a lot of this. So 'Death Rays' has the lusty bombast of a non-Conformist hymn, while 'San Pedro' feels inspired by a drunken fol-di-rol traditional. There's great contrast too between the rambunctious backing of 'George Square Thatcher Death Party' and Stuart Braithwaite's vocoder singing, without which the track would make a good basis for a collaboration with a Welsh male voice choir. And not just because of the miners.
It feels as if Mogwai are now making music that would suit a bellicose vocalist or bawdy ensemble, but have wisely kept the singing to just a couple of tracks and left your imagination to supply the rest. I don't think I've ever found myself humming along to Mogwai songs while doing the dishes before. Hardcore does not evoke the cinematic, or provide a soundtrack for the music critic's sixth form stabs at the grandiose (remember that "music is bigger than words and louder than pictures" intro to Young Team), but more is a simple manifestation of five people getting together to take great pleasure in the abandon of making a racket, and in some way inviting you to join them. For as this record proves, Mogwai are and always have been pompous only in the sense of a fat and drunken squire, red of face and shouting his blarney at an assembled multitude, rather than the dry bread and water hippy sermonising of the North American and Canadian instrumentalists who were their contemporaries. And for that, may their lives be long, and their noise-making fruitful.