The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Mogwai
Central Belters Jack Mckeever , October 8th, 2015 08:32

For a band with a history and sound as rich as Mogwai's, it's not unfair to suggest that Central Belters – a three disc selection of the band's biggest hitters and rarities – has been a long time coming. However, to place too much in the hands of warranty would be a disservice. There's much to be said for longevity and consistency, and in the case of Mogwai it seems they've found that balance in the purist of all places. "We just go in and play, we don't really talk about it", said guitarist and keyboardist Barry Burns in an interview with The Line Of Best Fit last year. Central Belters then, works more as another addition to Mogwai's own unique literary cannon, formed of vast soundscapes, titanic chord sequences and loud-mouthed abandon that locks together the foundations of their power.

Part of the secret to Mogwai's resonance is their rigorous but unforced cultural activism. Whereas facetious media tactics embedded a shelf-life for Britpop and its cultural relevance, Mogwai's has remained intact precisely because of how genuine it feels. One could have been totally forgiven for second guessing the idea of a Mogwai greatest hits compilation, and that's maybe part of the charm of this release too. For a band who have always subverted what's expected of them, the somewhat stately connotations behind Central Belters retains exactly the sort of left-foot forward mentality they've always appropriated.

Musically, Mogwai's power in their vast range of dynamics here runs not so much like a journey but more like an assertion of presence. This is the one aspect of Central Belters that feels crafted, but in an enhancing way rather than a mechanical one. On disc one, the sheer youthful exuberance of the original version of 'Summer' pulls no punches in leading the foray into the juxtaposed flavourings of the late night loneliness of 'CODY' into the monolithic 'Christmas Steps', and later on the dainty, orchestral meanderings of 'Take Me Somewhere Nice'.

On disc two, the slow-burning shoegazing of 'Travel Is Dangerous' casts a gleeful eye back at Scottish rock independence and is particularly moving set against the backdrop of the spectral 'Friend Of The Night'. The fact that 2008's 'The Hawk Is Howling' was perhaps one of their most vast in terms of developing scope is paid homage to dutifully here too, as the pensive and eventually soaring 'I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead' is matched by the sugary electro bound of 'The Sun Smells Too Loud' and the metallic 'Bat Cat'.

No moment feels more like the solicitation of a secretive corner of Mogwai's nuances than those on disc three though, which wraps itself in a set of rarities and B-sides that demark their inherent cultural worth. It's exactly their sense of humour to fit a melody as melancholy and a climax so large as that on 'Hugh Dallas' with an homage to the legendary Scottish football referee of the same name. The sense of bravado-based unity that rings true for many a group of young football-loving lads is approved by the inclusion of 'Half Time', a beautifully pensive slice of their soundtrack to Douglas Gordon's ace 2006 documentary Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. 'Hungry Face', the opening track to their soundtrack for eerie French TV series Les Revenants lays out their tactile understanding of dynamics, at all times a mastery of shape, space, loudness and subtlety.

Central Belters invites the listener to mediate on what it is that gives music its lasting impact. It's always been evident that pomp and circumstance in its conservative sense doesn't necessarily correlate to import. Mogwai are a band who have always managed to traverse the line between crushing heft and textured intelligence and have achieved personable beauty with both, and Central Belters is a reminder that, whatever sonic direction their next full-length takes, it'll be one of growth and development.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.