by / February 10th, 2011 /

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

 2/5 Rating

(Rock Action)

You get the feeling sometimes that Mogwai are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The Glaswegians’ breathtaking early EPs and 1997’s seminal Young Team showcased an emotive quiet-loud dynamic that alternated between slow-burning tension and feedback-drenched white noise, marking them out as one the most influential post-rock bands of that decade. Instead of sticking to the formula, successive releases have experimented with different textures and approaches, be it low-key ambience (Happy Songs For Happy People) or more concise song structures (Mr Beast). However, despite the consistent excellence of the band’s output over the last decade, familiar complaints have risen their heads at regular intervals: notably that in their eagerness to evolve Mogwai had lost the essence of what marked them out in the first place, or (somewhat paradoxically) that they were one trick ponies merely going through the motions.

On Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, their seventh studio album, it almost sounds as if Stuart Braithwaite and co. have listened to the message-board/media critics and decided to prove them all right. On tracks like opener ‘White Noise’ (misleadingly-titled, of course) and ‘San Pedro’ they sound like they’re in sleep-walk mode, with the latter laying down heavy ‘Batcat’-style riffs that nonetheless sound devoid of ferocity or impact. Other tracks do provide something of a curveball, but not in a good way: ‘Mexican Grand Prix’ is a kraut-tinged workout that resembles a latter-day Primal Scream cast-off, while ‘George Square Thatcher Death Party’ is an overly-compressed, autotuned mess of a song that overtakes ‘The Sun Smells Too Loud’ as the absolute nadir of their catalogue.

Elsewhere, the band resort to self-plagiarism: ‘Letters To The Metro’ is a pale echo of CODY’s ‘May Nothing But Happiness Come To Your Door’, while the second half of ‘How To Be A Werewolf’ imitates the climax of the glorious Young Team opener ‘Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home’ – needless to say, it’s not in the same league. The one truly great track here is ‘Rano Pano’: its cyclical, fuzzy riff, gradually and expertly layered, is augmented by pounding drums to create a menacing wall of sound. It’s an all-too-brief triumph. For the first time in their career Mogwai genuinely sound like they’re out of ideas: Hardcore Will Never Die… is bland, listless and uninspiring.

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  • NB123

    Nonsense. So they’re damned for trying to replicate past glories and damned for trying new things? They have misfired before – Rock Action never hit the heights, The Hawk is Howling was adequate – but this marks a serious return to form and ultimately with a band like Mogwai, they essentially invented the formula, so an album stands or falls on the tunes. To my ears these songs are the most engaging I’ve heard since HSFHP, even allowing for a few crackers on subsequent albums.
    And for the record, NO song is in the same league as ‘Yes! I Am A Long way From Home’, and that includes anything from yer Beatles and Stones.

  • that’s kind of what i meant by damned if they do, damned if they don’t. and i acknowledged the paradox.

    i agree about ‘yes i am a long way from home’, it’s in my top 5 of all time. the band themselves are one of my top 5 fave bands of all time. but the question remains, why copy the tune so blatantly?

  • NB123

    I dunno – maybe because they’re both so bloody brilliant. I’ve spent most of the afternoon listening obsessively to How to be a werewolf, and watching the accompanying video. It still makes my hairs stand on end, especially the glorious guitar squiggle as the cyclist (Will Oldham lookalike) disppears into the atomic blanched out whiteness, rekindling and recreating perfectly the 14th fret majesty of the back end of Yes! I am…. So they eventually got around to rewriting their best song after about 15 years – no fault there. If you can afford to rip yourself off and still sound this magical, sin e.

  • NB123

    Top marks for placing Mogwai in your top 5 though.

  • hmmm, well said 🙂

    their albums always seem to divide, though as i said this is the first time i haven’t liked one – i thought Mr Beast was solid, The Hawk Is Howling is excellent, really underrated. This one though, it’s just every track goes exactly where you expect it to go, all the punches are telegraphed and it just sounds really unsubtle and predictable to me. Still can’t wait to see them live

  • myth

    this album is their best in years!!!!!!!!!

  • Aeunuchintheharem.

    Most bands( and indeed people including me) would gladly sell their soul to sound that bland listless and uninspiring.